I have never been much of a "brand" person. My purchasing choices are not dictated by brands allegiance, quality, or cost, but primarily by time. I like things that make me productive. The world is a fascinating place to me, and there is so much I want to do, that I would rather pay a few dollars more for something than to spend time looking for a better deal. I don't think of it as wasting money but rather, saving time.
I spend my attention the same way. I'm a business news junkie, but I spend most of my time on the handful of sites that give me the most bang for my buck. I try to balance breadth and depth. I want new things, and I also want deeper thoughts about things I'm familiar with. That's why I love the Wall Street Journal.
I know it's weird. Most people in my demographic probably prefer Business 2.0, Fast Company, and similar titles. I don't know anyone else that subscribes to the WSJ. As a matter of fact, people like telling me what they hate about it, why it's irrelevant, and why they dropped their subscriptions. Their views must have affected me because in early January, with my subscription expiring, I chose not to renew. It just didn't seem worth the price.
Three weeks went by, and I began to feel different. I felt stagnant in my thinking. I was getting almost all my news from the web now, which means I had plenty of breadth, but very little depth. The deeper insights I used to get from reaching a more thorough understanding of a new topic were fading. Was it the the lack of the WSJ? Surely not. But that was the main thing that had changed in my intellectual life.
I thought about subscribing to the WSJ online but, truth be told, I don't like their site or the navigation. Plus I find myself easily distracted when I'm reading on a computer, meaning I probably wouldn't finish the longer articles. After two more weeks of stewing on it, I decided to re-subscribe.
Late last week, I left the house one morning and found my first issue in our paper box. Arriving at work, I sat down with a cup of coffee and spread open the paper. I felt a strange warm fuzzy kind of sensation, kind of like returning home after a long trip.
The feeling left me with a bit of cognitive dissonance. Why did this brand have such an effect on me – the guy who doesn't care about brands? Is this what people feel like when they buy Nikes or Starbucks or whatever it is they have some allegiance too?
I've listened to a bunch of people here at SXSW talk about the end of major media and the power of user generated content, but I just don't seem many bloggers or random people writing the kind of great stuff that's in the WSJ. They don't toss softballs. They don't boil down complicated business issues into three cheesy bullet points. They make me think. They show the subtle complexities and tradeoffs that that quick-hit business-by-bulletpoint media don't realize, and can't appreciate.
If you're a music lover, you would probably rather you would probably rather hear Bach from a full orchestra than on a single instrument, otherwise you miss many of the complexities of his work – the things that the average listener may not there are people I feel the same way about business. While others complain about articles measured in the thousands of words, I think they can still be interesting and relevant. Maybe I'm an anomaly in a world of business media gone ADD, but I'm a believer that quality content will always have a place and that branding yourself as the best of the best can be a great way to compete in the future.