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Getting the News — Evan Williams

(This post is part of News.me’s ongoing series, “Getting the News.” In our efforts to understand everything about social news, we’re reaching out to writers and thinkers we like to ask them how they get their daily news. Read the first post here. See all of the posts, from writers and thinkers like Chris Dixon, Zach Seward, and Megan Garberhere.)

This week we bring you Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Blogger, and partner at Obvious Corporation. Evan’s accomplishments are so great as to be almost preposterous: not only did he co-found two of the Internet’s top ten websites, but he also invented the term “blogger.” Now that the line between bloggers and journalists is blurring and Twitter is the “people’s newswire,” few other people on the planet can claim to have changed journalism and news consumption as much as Evan. We took a bit of his time to see how he’s getting his information. Unsurprisingly, Twitter plays a big role.

1. Describe how you get news throughout the day. What’s the first thing you check when you wake up?

I stopped sleeping with my phone beside my bed about six months ago, because I wanted my wife to be the first and last thing I looked at in the day, rather than my iPhone. :)

When I do get around to looking at it, I first check email and then the weather (maybe it’s my farming roots). On the way to work, I’ll check Twitter, which is the thing I check most frequently throughout the day (on both on the phone and desktop).

(In fact, people sometimes comment that I don’t use Twitter much, which couldn’t be further from the truth — I use it constantly. It’s just that it’s much more of a source of information than a broadcast medium for me. That’s true of more people than not, actually.)

2. What publications or news sources do you read and trust? How frequently do you visit them throughout the day?

I visit a lot of publications regularly — both blogs and traditional media — but almost always via pointers, not as a homepage consumption experience. Besides Twitter, I find myself getting news via email more than I would have expected in this day and age. Three emails I read (or at least skim) almost daily include: Summify, POLITICO Playbook (even though I’m not that into politics), and Jason Hirschhorn’s Media Redefined. In the less-frequent (and not quite news) department, Brain Pickings is great.

I’ll occasionally type in the domains of other blogs, but if I find myself doing that, it’s a sign I’m not very focused and should get back to work.

3. What platforms do you read/get content on? Are you into reading content on your iPhone or tablet, or do you still remember how to unfold a newspaper? Do you ever watch television news programs?

iPhone is a biggie, as mentioned above. I don’t touch my iPad much — if so, it’s mostly as an expensive Kindle. I still like the laptop/desktop experience the most. I wish more content was designed for the big screen.

Newspapers and TV…what now?

4. What was the last great article you read? How did you find out about it? Is this your typical pattern?

The last great article I read was How Your Cat is Making You Crazy in The Atlantic. I read the paper version, which is fairly unusual, but I was on a flight, and you need something to read during that time you can’t turn on your devices. Also, I’ve always loved magazines, so I buy them regularly.

I don’t read many long-form articles, though I’m not sure why. I save stuff to Readability but rarely go back to read it. When I want to focus for more than a minute on something, I’ll turn to a book. In general, I find books to be more satisfying than articles. That could be due to a false sense of accomplishment.

5. Is anything missing from your news consumption pattern now or in the tools/sites that you use? Anything you wish you had?

One thing that I find missing is discovery of non-new content. The web is completely oriented around new-thing-on-top. Our brains are also wired to get a rush from novelty. But most “news” we read really doesn’t matter. And a much smaller percentage of the information I actually care about or would find useful was produced in the last few hours than my reading patterns reflect.

Also, most news and content sites are terribly designed. I wish they were better.

Find Evan at his blog and on Twitter.

(Photo courtesy of Evan Williams. All interviews conducted by Sonia Saraiya.)