Monday, July 17, 2006

When is old news no news?

Noam Cohen at the NYT reports:
When does new news become old news?

In the case of a news article on the Internet, the answer is surprisingly long: 36 hours on average .... More precisely, 36 hours is the amount of time it takes for half of the total readership of an article to have read it.

Traditional ideas about the way people use the Internet would have led researchers to expect a much shorter half-life, more like two to four hours.

"You can spin it two ways," said Dr. Barabasi, a specialist on complex networks. "Gee, only 36 hours is the typical half-life of an article. Or gee, I would have expected it to be shorter."
I am in the latter group. I think it is surprising that more than half of the time an article is read, it is being read more than 36 hours after it was published. It seems that old news is news after all.

If old news is news, there is a question of how you help people find the good stuff. How can we surface interesting, older articles on each reader's front page?

Looking at that, Neil Budde has an interesting quote in the article about personalized news:
Neil F. Budde, general manager of Yahoo News, said his site must balance a variety of competing interests: frequent visitors who get bored by even slightly stale news, less frequent visitors who won't know what has happened in the last few hours or even days, and the editors' own news judgment.

"What would be ideal would be to keep track of when you were last on our site and present a package of news that would be different than what others see."
It is not clear, Neil may only be talking about personalization based on your last visit, offering some older articles if you have not visited in a while. Or, perhaps Neil is going a step further and suggesting that Yahoo News should penalize articles you have seen before and recommend new articles based on what you have read.

Either way, it is interesting to see that Yahoo News wants to show different people different news stories based on their behavior.


Anonymous said...

How differently do you treat articles from the blogosphere which is quite dynamic and short lived than the general news?

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Anand. The major difference we find with weblog content is that there is a much more serious problem with spam and junk.

The timeliness of the articles seems about the same to me, perhaps because I see many weblog articles taking the form of analysis, opinion, or essays rather than breaking news.