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Getting the News -- Chris Dixon

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(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 Zach SewardAnil Dash, and Megan Garber, here. All interviews are conducted by Sonia Saraiya.)

This week we spoke to Chris Dixon, co-founder of Hunch. Chris has been in the startup world for 10 years, creating companies of his own and investing in others about to get big. Hunch, his most well-known company, was acquired by eBay in 2011. We thought we'd ask Chris what his news routine was -- when you're on the cutting edge of tech, information is vital. Chris is the most unassuming angel investor you might ever meet, and took the trouble to come by the News.me offices to be interviewed in person. Below he shares his tricks of the trade on making Twitter a news tool, converting information to ideas, and keeping up with the Kardashians.

How do you get your news throughout the day?

It used to be the paper -- going back to when I'd read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal every day for 10 years. But I don't read in paper anymore. I haven't for a few years now. I started migrating to RSS, reading blogs, and now I've stopped doing that, too.

It's all Twitter -- with the exception of maybe checking the New York Times homepage once a day, to see if some major international thing happened that I somehow missed on Twitter. Twitter is the first thing I check in the morning. It's become the best place to aggregate news -- though it has problems. It works well if you're checking throughout the day. You have to be on it. But if you're off for six hours, well, that why I have to go to the Times. You miss the window of something happening. And there's a lot of noise and redundancy.

I read the news as a citizen, but in the tech world, I also read it professionally. Ten years ago, if you didn't read the Journal every day, people would say, "Oh, did you see the big article about Apple?" And you'd feel like you didn't know what was going on, and you'd have to go read the Journal. Now it doesn't happen like that, because the Journal story will already be on tech blogs. 

The way I see it, If I can spend 20 minutes in the morning and have a 90 percent chance of knowing anything important that someone might mention that day, I'm informed. A person mentioning news that I didn't know about, that is relevant to me, is a failure in my newsreading methods.

What was the last great article you read? And how did you find it?

Actually, for that, I like News.me [the iPad app] quite a bit. My favorite feature is how you can switch between people. At Hunch we call that cross-dressing. I like that in the app I can see the world as Anil Dash sees it. I really enjoy his blog posts -- he doesn't write that often, but when he does they're really good. He's more political than me, so I go to him when I want more of a political angle. 

The only iPad magazine I pay for is the New Yorker. It's actually a really good app. Recently I read really good article, a Malcolm Gladwell article. He's always good. And this is another ifttt thing -- you should really try it -- I have a script so that anytime he writes an article, it automatically gets pushed to my Instapaper. 

What else did I read? I don't find much of mainstream journalism interesting. I read the Economist, the New Yorker, and the New York Times occasionally. The Journal used to be great. I think the Journal used to be by far the best press. By far. What else? I read a lot of industry stuff. I go to Hacker News and I look at the top links there. I don't really use reddit or digg. I occasionally type in Google News. And if I do go to the Huffington Post, it's to stay loosely in touch with what's up with the Kardashians.

So you're interested?

Not really, no. [laughing] Just to have some contact with mainstream culture.

Is there anything missing from the way you consume news? Any tools you wish you had?

There's a lot of little technical things that need to get fixed. Like the fact that I have to remember, before I get on the subway, to download the Instapaper, the iPad app, whatever -- I don't think this stuff is built for New York, where you're offline sometimes. And Twitter -- I think it's the best tool so far, but I doesn't feel like the ultimate way to consume news. For all the reasons described -- like you miss six hours of stuff. But it's definitely better than anything else I know of. RSS started to feel the way that the inbox does now, with that number. It's like this nagging to-do list, and Google Reader started to feel like that too. Just another thing you need to do. I think that's the thing that's nice about Twitter. There's this general feeling that it's OK if you miss stuff, because it often does come back if it's important enough. I mean, think about the SOPA/PIPA debate. You could have been offline for two days and you still would have heard about it. If it's big enough, it'll come back. 

It's an interesting time right now. We mentioned Fred Wilson earlier -- he's the most interesting person writing about venture capital, and it's this sort of bizarre thing where he's considered an amateur, while a reporter at the New York Times who's never done anything related to venture capital is a professional. When of course, in reality, it's exactly the opposite. I find that more and more of the best content is from people speaking from direct experience. I think there's probably always a need for professional news, investigative reporting, like the Foxconn story we were talking about earlier. Maybe you could have on-the-ground reports about that, but probably you need paid journalists for that, and there's a role for that. But the idea that the New York Times needs to tell you about the latest finance and venture capital news is silly. I'm interested in the potential and untapped talent out there, and the changing role of paid journalists. I think the more interesting questions for news are around content than around delivery mechanisms. I feel like we've made a lot of progress with delivery mechanisms, but with content we're going to see some interesting shakeups in the next five years.

(See the full interview with Chris Dixon at News.me's blog.)