I love to read, and in the ever-changing world of Interactive Marketing, constantly reading is imperative to staying fresh and relevant in the marketplace.  While nothing substitutes for real world experience, I have found that maintaining an extensive reading list is the most surefire way to accelerate your career (and your profile within your company).

When I first started with Search Marketing, I found that there were several quality books that were published both in print and in e-book format.  All of these books were highly relevant to the topic of search marketing, and offered a solid background as to how the search engines evolved, which engines were succeeding in the short term, and an outlook for the future of search.  This was exactly what I needed in order to get started in the industry, and it helped me put form to the theories that I had crafted in my head about how to approach the industry.

This worked well for the first several books, but then I started to notice two very distinct and opinion altering trends when it came to reading Interactive Marketing books in print:

  1. There is a lot of overlap between the books. While seeing a comprehensive history of how Google became the dominant search engine is very useful on first read, hearing variations of the same story in 3-4 print books becomes quite tedious.
  2. As soon as a book is published, it is already out of date. The average books takes 1-2 years to develop from concept to distribution.  During that time, the Online world goes through several cycles and updates.  Without inside knowledge of future initiatives by the search engines, the book will surely be out of date by the time it is published.

As a result of books being seemingly out of date as soon as they are printed, I turned to reading the blogs of famous search engine marketers, Internet marketers, online money makers, web analysts, e-commerce companies, and many more genres!  At first, I found blogs difficult to follow because I was trying to track over 50 sources, and I didn't have a uniform way of checking these sources for new material.  I didn't know of any efficiency tools available to help ease the burden of tracking several sources.  Then I had an epiphany: RSS Feeds!

For those of you who don't know, an RSS feed is a hands off way for a web site to syndicate their content to readers automatically, using a standard XML format.  Whenever a site publishes new content, the site sends out a notification that is has published new information.  There are several free "reader" applications available on the Internet that will "catch" these RSS feeds from sites and organize the content on your behalf.  It has revolutionized the way I view the web!

My RSS reader of choice comes from Google (surprise, surprise) and in my opinion, Google Reader is by far the best.  If you are anti-Google, there are plenty of other options too, including: Firefox Live Bookmarks, Bloglines, Netvibes and even Microsoft Outlook 2007 has RSS tracking.

I like Google Reader best for several reasons, but mainly because it is such a seamless way to track sources of information, and their ability to share and email stories to others.  I use the email story function daily!

Google Reader also keeps comprehensive stats on the quantity of items you read over a given time period.  In the spirit of this post, I pulled the 30 day rolling stats from my reader application.  11,000+ items read in a 30 day span... Not bad Jeff!

11000+ Items in 30 days 11000+ Items in 30 days

I know that I read quite a few blog posts each day, but I never imagined that I read this much!  That works out to 368 items per day.  That is on top of the hours I work.  Digging deeper into the data, I can see that I clearly read the majority of the content from these sites between 7-9 AM each day.  I have sort of developed a routine of reading and drinking coffee each morning before I head into work.  There is another uptick each evening after the work day winds down.

I do most of my reading at 7 AM every morning I do most of my reading from 7-9 AM every morning

I also tend to read content pretty evenly throughout the week.  From this chart, it looks like I catch up on my reading each Sunday, and then do heavy reading Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week (this changes significantly when I am work traveling).  I read the least on Mondays, which makes complete sense to me given that Mondays are always the busiest and most productive work days for me.

Reading Trends by Day of the Week Reading Trends by Day of the Week

The last point I would like to share about RSS readers is that the email feature is a priceless way to share information with your co-workers.  I email articles to my co-workers several times a week; whenever I find something relevant to share with my team.  In order to prevent information overload, I try to only send the articles to people who would find them relevant.  While ideally everyone in the company would read every article that I send, I realize that isn't always possible, and that sending several articles a day would result in information overload.

Most Emailed Blogs Most Emailed Blogs

The list of blogs above have posts that I most often emailed to my co-workers in the past 30 days.  These also happened to be the sites that I consider to be "must read" blogs.  They feature the best, most unbiased information that I can find on the web in each particular niche.   I will be doing a future post about these sites, so stay tuned!

Lastly, I just wanted to mention that I am a proud owner of a Kindle from Amazon.  For those of you who don't know, it is an ebook reader that is very highly regarded in the reading community.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to use this thing as often as I would like (the only place I am not connected is on an airplane, and I haven't traveled as much in the past two months).  Once I get a chance to really get used to my Kindle, I will also do a post about this new technology that many people may not know about.