The problem with what’s new?

A question we ask in the editorial team is: is this news? Within that question lies another one: is this new? When a news organisation reports, the focus is often on what’s the latest. It’s what defines what news channels report, what makes the front page of a newspaper, and the home page of a news website.

This is perhaps because people attach a great premium on what is news. Reuters was built around the idea of reporting the news faster than anyone else. The Bloomberg terminal does this too. Short, sharp. New. The short news business does this too.

Two things: Firstly, there’s a significant premium that people attach to what is new. They have a need to know something before anyone else. It moves markets. There’s money there. It’s a favor someone can trade: you tell someone something important that they didn’t know about, and there’s perceived value in the fact that you provided them with some new information.

The problem here is that the value of many things that are new is limited: what works is the dopamine effect it causes, and people then have an addiction to staying on top of everything. The problem for publications is that what is new brings commodified audiences, and the news gets commodified very quickly as well. The new-ness has a transient lifecycle, a very low shelf life. So because people keep chasing what’s new, publications have to keep chasing it too.

Not enough people value what’s deep.