Newspapers and all newsmedia are in the news-breaking business; it’s a race to tell us what we need to know — you heard it first, folks!
Stepping back today, though, I think when and how the news is delivered can and should vary depending on the circumstances. Gone are the days of newspaper hawkers shouting “Extra, extra: Read all about it,” to announce news in print. Today news is instantaneous, and technology has given the task of breaking news to the Internet channel and, to a degree, the broadcast channels.
So, how do daily newspapers bring news to their readers?
I was in the car listening to a radio programme that was pre-recorded when, five minutes into it and five minutes after the hourly news, the station interrupted with an announcement about the much-awaited verdict in a highly publicised murder case. By the time they introduced the news flash, gave background, reported the verdict, and said details would follow at the news break, I had lost 10 minutes of the documentary I had been looking forward to hearing. Was that worth it? Well, the answer will vary by individual, but I was quite miffed!
The radio station “missed the point,” in my view. I inevitably would have heard the verdict; I would have had to be living in a cave to miss that information. In 20 minutes, there would have been another news break, or a quick check on my mobile would have given me that “news” in short order. It could have waited and certainly did not need to interrupt what I had chosen to do at that time. What most people in Canada wanted from their news outlets that day was the story behind the verdict.
The newspapers were full of the story — first, through various online channels and then in print. They covered the story from a variety of aspects, and we could read as much or as little as we wanted, wherever and whenever we wanted. But I never got back the 10 minutes of the documentary I missed.
The media, and the different distribution channels the newspaper employs to publish the news, are all on the team and they all play a different role. And I do not think consumers want one aspect of their media experience compromised because of an ill-timed interruption. That said, there are interruptions that are valuable (think national disaster or act of terrorism), and therein lies the judgment and expertise of the source.
Media is everywhere, but we exist in a world of “permission-based” media; all media must be invited in by the consumer. The warmth of the invitation will be based — like any relationship — on past behaviour and the value of what is being brought forward.
The role of newspapers in their readers’ lives is more complex than it has ever been. They exist to bring value, knowledge, entertainment, and context to the world their readers live in. Knowing when and where to engage with readers will determine the success of the newspaper. Newspapers will continue to bring breaking news to their readers, but not in print. Detailed stories published in print and digitally will bring value and excitement to readers by providing insight, not just information. Information is cheap, insight is priceless.