In the content delivery business, we tend to think of content – not necessarily news – as existing in just a few states – important, relevant and irrelevant.
Irrelevant content is easy to identify – it’s anything the client doesn’t want to see. The difference between important and relevant can be subtle at times; after all, the scores in last weekend’s NFL playoff games may be relevant to your needs, but the fact that one of the star quarterbacks got injured is important. If your news feed focuses more on relevance than importance, you might miss the injury report in a sea of unimportant data.
That’s where we can start talking about the differences between content and news. I like to think of these things as buckets – content is a big bucket and news is a small bucket inside the big one. Content exists as the total of all the information that’s being published out there – which may or may not be relevant – and news is more about what’s happening now, information that you need to be aware of as soon as possible.
Beyond that definition of news, which is still rather broad, we can consider news to be anything that is important to your business.
An article about a new federal law might not be news for you, but articles about how that federal law affects your business are news. An article about a new bypass might not be news to 99.99% of the nation, but if that bypass means 30,000 cars a day aren’t going to see your storefront, that is certainly important news for you. We often refer to these kinds of articles as “hyper local,” meaning that their importance changes depending on the level at which the reader exists.
One aspect of news that continues to grow in recognition is social media. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr have become the front line in breaking news, with people (not necessarily journalists) on the ground posting updates, photos and even video of riots, revolutions, fires, earthquakes, floods and any number of other newsworthy events as they happen.
The weakness of news via social media is that it lacks perspective, but its great strength is that it relies on an immediacy we can’t get any other way. The six o’clock news might be four hours off – and maybe CNN can’t get a crew there for 12 hours anyway. Social media is right there, right in the thick of things.
Another twist to news is reliability. Some businesses may rely on the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune or Washington Post as their news sources, discounting or even ignoring news from other sources as being less desirable than their preferred marquis titles. While this approach has its strengths – a long history of reliable news and information, or a robust organization with ties to national and international sources – it can also have its weaknesses. One weakness is their publication schedule – the paper won’t come out until tomorrow morning. Most large news outlets shortcut this publication schedule by publishing articles to their websites and making news available electronically on a 24-hour cycle.
When it comes to the content that helps you make decisions about your business and your future, it’s important to center in on what information you need and when you need it. Making decisions about how local you want your news, which marquis titles to rely on and even whether to include social media can go a long way towards boosting the importance of your news feed.