As I am sure you have noticed, we’re living in an attention economy where information is exploding. With all the content around us, how do we manage available information streams most effectively and efficiently? This is an essential question for EVERYONE, not just those of us who are admitted “geeks.” Information continues to explode, but we continue to just have 24 hours in each day. I love my iPod and all the great content now available digitally, both from free and commercial sources. Eric Hileman and I taught a group of seniors about iTunes University, among other topics, last week in our “Tech Talk” at a local church, and I think many of them were really amazed by everything that is now available FREE online as audio and video podcasts. When it comes to podcast channels, how can we effectively manage all the GREAT content “out there” and avoid being overwhelmed by it? These are questions with which I continue to struggle. I don’t have all the answers, but I have found some helpful ways to answer at least some of them.

I created a short video podcast / screencast several weeks ago explaining how I use Juice Receiver (free, cross-platform software) in conjunction with PodNova (a free, web-based service for podcast channel subscription management) and iTunes to periodically “clean up” the podcast channels to which I’ve subscribed. (Currently I subscribe to 53 different channels. PodNova provides an OPML link if you want to download these and subscribe to any of them yourself using any OPML compliant podcatching software.) Certainly you can manage all your podcast subscriptions within iTunes, but I have found this mix of software and web-based services to be beneficial for several reasons. (See my post last May, “The joy of Juice Receiver and PodNova” for more background on this.)

During my most recent “podcast channel cleanup,” I was struck by how important podcast episode titles are. As I scan through several hundred podcast episodes, the title of individual podcasts is really all I have to go on to make a split-second decision: Keep or delete?

The importance of podcast titles

I love maintaining a rich and diverse array of high quality podcasts on my iPod and iPhone, which I can turn on anytime I’m in the car alone driving somewhere. No, I don’t always listen to podcasts in the car, but I frequently do, and it is wonderful to have such wonderful professional development options literally at my fingertips 24/7.

I took some journalism classes when I was in high school, and I remember a few lessons our teacher presented about the importance of writing good headlines. Headlines generally aspire to “grab” our attention as well as summarize the content of an article. We live in an attention economy, where information is plentiful but time (and our attention) is very limited. It is important for us to help students learn the techniques as well as the importance of “headline writing” not only in formal journalism classes, but also in other content area classes where learners are writing and publishing.

Does that title or headline grab my attention?

Does that title succinctly summarize the content of that podcast episode?

Those are important questions for learners and content publishers in the 21st century information landscape to consider. Shouldn’t that “group” include everyone in your school and mine? I think so.

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