Brian Armstrong

The News Is an Utter Waste of Time

Hey Folks,

This is going to be my first video blog. I’m trying out a new format. Please let me know which one you like better (written or video) in the comments!

**A couple things I noticed on the video that I think could be improved: I’d like to keep it shorter and denser with information. Also I realized that I never sound very EXCITING when I talk. I think doing more video blogs over time I’ll get better. Probably a combination of video and some written outline or graphs could be a good combination. Let me know what you think!

Here is the written equivalent…**

I’ve practiced this for a long time myself, but it just occurred to me again the other day and I thought I’d post about it: in general the mainstream news (television, radio, and print) is an utter waste of your time. And worse than that, it’s probably preventing you from becoming successful.

There are a few reasons why…

1. The News Is Full of Negative Stuff

The old saying in media is true that “if it bleeds it leads”. The news tends to overreport negative events like murders and crashes because it gets ratings. You can’t help but have these things affect you over time, and it slowly but surely starts to make you think the city is dangerous, or that the world is hostile, or that opportunity isn’t out there. All of course are incorrect, but whatever you spend time watching and reading becomes your reality.

2. The News Is Designed To Scare You As Entertainment

The story of the little girl who was kidnapped is addictive to watch. It robs you of your time. The story is designed just like an entertainment show, to keep you hooked waiting for what will happen next.

Some people would say its important to watch this because it gives you valuable safety information. We can prove to ourselves that this isn’t true by looking at the statistics.

Statistically, you are very unlikely to get kidnapped, die in a plane crash, or to choke on a small plastic toy. Yet this is what gets the media attention. I wrote about this a while back, how humans are bad at estimating risk. After 9/11 many people were scared to fly, and this perception caused about 1.4 million people to drive instead of fly to their holiday destination, effectively killing about 1000 people in additional auto fatalities (you’re much more likely to be killed in a car crash than a plane crash).

The news isn’t giving you valuable safety information on things that are likely to kill you (it’s boring to report on heart disease), its designed to scare and keep you watching.

3. It’s Biased

I couldn’t believe it the other day when I accidentally spent a few minutes on Fox News and then on CNN as I flipped through the channels. Fox news was essentially crucifying Obama while CNN was vigorously defending him. Of course not directly, but by the guests and hosts on the show.

I couldn’t believe how blatant it was. In theory the news should just report the facts and let us make up our own minds, but they (mainstream media) can’t even do that today it seems.

4. It’s For The Most Part, Irrelevant

99% of the stories you see on the news can never, and will never affect your life, period.

The reason is that its tailored to a wide audience. So you will have to wade through all sorts of junk you don’t care about that wastes you time to get 1 or 2 nuggets of useful information.

The Solution

So if mainstream news is a colossal waste of time that is polluting your brain with negative thoughts, what is the solution?

The first step is to spend as little time on it as possible. Reading a book on marketing could make you an extra $100,000 this year whereas watching a show on a tornado 1000 miles away will never affect your life one bit.

So, I spend about 20 seconds (literally) per day reading the news. This is no joke.

I do it with a new aggregator service that delivers articles to my inbox (I use Yahoo News, but Google News is great too). I just scan the first 5 headlines or so (they are ordered by importance) and delete. If I see something that is interesting or could really affect me (which is rare), I read deeper. This is better for a few reasons…

Its fast. With about 20 seconds per day of scanning headlines, you can know enough to know what’s happening in the world. At least as much as any reasonable, intelligent person needs to know.

Its unbiased. News aggregator services send out news based on what is being said in hundreds or thousands of news sources. You get the most important based on collective thought, not one person’s agenda.

Its more targeted. You can get email updates on specific areas like business, sports, or whatever is important to you.

Try it out. And with all your extra free time you should start reading and watching material that is WAY better than the news. You should be watching speeches by important innovative leaders in your field, blogs in areas that interest you, and listening to audio books in your car instead of the radio.

In fact, every morning while I’m eating breakfast I don’t read the newspaper. I read blogs (in Google Reader) like Signal vs. Noise, Seth Godin’s Blog, and The Four Hour Work Week to fill my mind with relevant, though provoking, educational, motivating material. And then I go take on the day. Because of this I’m much more effective during the day than if I’d started it by watching a story on Britney’s trip to rehab. Blogs in many ways are the new unbiased, educational, positive newspapers for successful people I think.