editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Is CNN running out of material?

November 14th, 2007 · 2 Comments

When I work from home, I have a tendency to leave CNN on the TV as background noise. Why I don’t just listen to music, I don’t know. While there are many things about CNN that irk me, the one that frustrates me the most is the repetition.

CNN LOGO/FLV-flickr.com

Try it some time and you’ll see what I mean. Start watching at say 7 or 8 a.m. and go through to even just noon and, barring MAJOR breaking news, you are bound to see the same story two or three times.

I understand that it takes time to produce live or prerecorded segments and that CNN’s anchors can’t just sit there and read news produced by the AP or other wire service. But recycling the same pieces; is there no new news they should be covering?

Sounds frustrating and annoying, doesn’t it?

I share this with you because imagine you are at your computer and you visit the website of your local newspaper only to find that the news hasn’t changed since your last visit? You see the same stories and photos that were posted there hours ago. Sounds familiar? Well, guess what else, it is frustrating and annoying.

News consumers hunger for current and up-to-date information. The 24-hour news networks and especially the Internet have fed that appetite creating consumers unwilling to accept that there is nothing happening or nothing newsworthy to report. And quite frankly, if one TV station or website doesn’t have anything, they will look elsewhere.

News Updates ExampleYes website visitors will site surf even for news. And if you don’t quench their thirst, they will go looking for someone who will. The way to keep people satisfied and returning to your site is by providing a constant stream of news updates, replete with posting times and even “NEW” or “BREAKING” tags when appropriate.

I know there are those editors who believe that it is better to provide full stories when they are complete. While there are others that feel updating stories or posting new stories haphazardly is enough. Really, the editors of these sites are being intellectually dishonest. They are actually hoping that aimless clicking and return visits will increase their sites page views and uniques – basically they are playing a game. But both approaches risk frustrating and alienating readers and even worse, pushing them to turn to news sources that DO provide regular updates.

I would even go a step further and say that newspaper staffs are ready to do this even if their websites currently aren’t. The reporting process is about gathering yarn. Reporters collect and write. Every interview or document adds another layer, another sentence or another paragraph. Filing some of those pieces for the website, will help them keep track of what they have and stop them from over-reporting.

So give it a shot. Identify a group of reporters, pick a schedule that reflects some of you peak traffic times, set a goal (even just a handful of updates an hour) and see what happens. Present it prominently on your website and let people know through both in-print and online promotion what you are doing and I have no doubt you will see a quality increase in your traffic.

Tags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Local Newspapers

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark Dykeman // Nov 14, 2007 at 7:19 am

    Excellent point. However, is it possible that they repeat news because they feel it is important and they know they have a fragmented audience (i.e. they don’t all watch the news at the same time?)

  • 2 Matt Katz // Nov 17, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    CNN and other news networks should be following the lead of Al Gore’s network, Current TV, which offers a steady stream of short features produced at professional-quality by users. It keeps things fresh, doesn’t fabricate “breaking news” or repeat exhausted analysis about presidential debates that no one watched. And it keeps true to journalistic standards.

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