Serendipity: Not dead yet, not by long shot

Damon Darlin wrote in his NY Times article Serendipity, Lost in the Digital Deluge that a downside of the Digital Age is a loss in serendipitous information discovery:

WE’VE gained so much in the digital age. We get more entertainment
choices, and finding what we’re looking for is certainly fast. Best of
all, much of it is free…But we’ve lost something as
well: the fortunate discovery of something we never knew we wanted to
find. In other words, the digital age is stamping out serendipity.

Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are
discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we
have selected because they share our tastes. It won’t deliver that
magic moment of discovery that we imagine occurred when Elvis Presley first heard the blues, or when Michael Jackson followed Fred Astaire’s white spats across the dance floor.

Although I think the nature of serendipitous info discovery has changed, I do not agree that it is dead – not by a long shot.  In fact, with growing info sources and increasingly diverse ways of receiving and digesting media comes even more opportunities.

I thought what I would do is illustrate this by describing recent jewels I have uncovered – articles and posts from different sources – and in the process show how information from a typical post on Flack’s Revenge comes together.

I was casually going about my normal social media intensive day searching for mentions of this blog when I came across a false positive – a link not leading to a mention of Flack’s Revenge, but instead to an article called The Revenge of the Flack – one that is perhaps a little dated in terms of being a year old but still extremely topical and interesting.  It is about taking PR directly to the people, and one that I found totally by accident during a Google search.

Not long afterward I was scanning headlines in my email in box to find the nuggets amidst the all the BS I normally need to wade through.  One headline from Ad Age fortuitously jumped out: As Media Market Shrinks, PR Passes Up Reporters, Pitches Directly to Consumers.

The trifecta of information discovery was completed when Andrew Fowler of Newsvetter shared a post via Twitter about diminishing news beats, and what this means for PR (this is perhaps less serendipitous as Andrew knows me and thought I might have an interest).  Nonetheless, the combination of affinity and serendipity led me to several related stories and provided fodder for a future post.

Damon’s article assumes that the people in our networks are homogeneous and share the same narrow range of tastes that we do.  This is not true in general.  So, whether you see a Tweet with a link, see the results that surround your searches and search alerts, someone shares something unexpected, or yes watching TV and reading real mags which most of us still do, we are surrounded by info and it is harder these days NOT to accidentally discover something totally unexpected and interesting.

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