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Watching the Rhythm of News Consumption

When People Read Online News

Bernie Goldbach in Clonmel | Graphic from WSJ | 544 words

 IN 2007, I GOT BREAKING NEWS on my mobile phone as single lines of text from either Twitter or Jaiku. And sometimes the most relevant news wasn't merely a rehashing of a broadsheet headline.

Five years ago, Paul Bradshaw's "A Model for the 21st Century Newsroom" described how the old production line model for news was meeting a networked mode of operation - where anyone could take on editorial and distribution roles and journalists were no longer limited in the medium they could choose or the time and space to tell a story.

This week, Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz unpack new developments and the growing experience of organisations and individuals. They share a picture of our new media landscape and it is one part breaking news, one part news apps and one part long reads.

FIR Discussion of News Consumption

News consumption has changed during my lifetime. As a teenager, I picked up the evening paper from the mailbox and my dad often brought the morning paper home from work. We listened to the radio all day long but often sat for the network news at night.

Today, news comes in a constant stream across social networks, much like it did on our kitchen radio at home. However, the social newsflow is much more informed than the small tidbits of information that dribbled onto the AM radio stations of my past. 

Importantly, the workplace has become a key site for online news consumption (Boczkowski, 2010), with sports, celebrity journalism and fashion news deemed safe for coffee chats around canteen tables. This coffee chat time corresponds to the first hump (a rise on a graph) of the day when my blog gets a surge in traffic. Where geeks converse, tech links are often discussed, some coming from my blog items. If you share tech news, you're dealing in social currency. It's often purely informative and often it enhances business productivity. 

I think most news percolates through shared links. Twitter calls itself a news information network. Facebook shares stories. Google Plus records upvotes as part of the global search index. We are moving towards a more active engagement with the news, according to social network researcher Danah Boyd .

Data on peak times of media consumption also explains the traffic hitting my blog. I see peaks  in the morning at the start of the Irish working day and during the afternoon lunch break. I get another peak around the time that people finish dinner at home. If you're publishing a blog and you need the attention of viewers, you need to understand these rhythms and you need to know the two-hour "attention windows" that personify your viewers.

Interesting news (as well as interesting blog posts) have a social value. What we read on our screens is potentially social currency if it is shared. Positive content gets passed around more than negative content (even though some Irish voices might disagree with that fact). I watch Boxcar on iOS as I send out my own tweets and can hear the frequency of favourites and retweets ramping up into double digits within a half hour of using a positive adjective in a headline, tweet or caption. 

All this research makes for fascinating changes in strategy as our local newspapers grapple with how to reinvent themselves in a format that attracts a twentysomething audience.


Related links on aggregation from Bernie Goldbach.

Paul Bradshaw -- "A Model for the 21st Century Newsroom", 2007.

Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz -- "For Immediate Release" podcast, April 15, 2012.

Pablo Boczkowski -- Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance, 2010

Joshua Benton -- "Like, share, and recommend: How the warring verbs of social media will influence the news’ future", Neiman Journalism Lab, February 28, 2011.

Zizi Papacharissi -- "Rhythms of News Storytelling", 2011.

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