Permanews: Old news is good news

Most news outlets, including TV news shows and networks, newspapers, news websites, and blogs are targeted at news junkies: they never want to miss a story, and they want to be the first to report it to you.

If you look back on these stories even one week later, the majority of them seem unimportant or redundant in retrospect. And if you stop consuming the firehose for a few days or more, you’re lost — there are very few publications that give a general overview of what has happened, especially when venturing outside of mainstream front-page news and into a subsection, such as technology news.

I want last week’s news, but only what I need to know, and only if it has proven to have relevance beyond the day it was published.

(via More ideas than time: Last week’s news – marco.org)

I had an idea in this vein a few weeks ago, but neglected to blog about it. I called my idea permanews. Instead of being delayed arbitrarily, the news would stick around until it genuinely started to become irrelevant.

On the Permanews site, every story becomes one story, wiki style. As the story develops, the article grows and changes. There are revision histories and links to related stories etc, but at any point you should be able to visit the story and get a chronological breakdown of what happened.

Critically – and this is key – stories with pending outcomes are flagged for follow-up. If some MP promises some reform by ‘this time next year’, then 356 days later the algorithm promotes the old story as fresh news so it can be checked and updated.

Stories are promoted as headlines based on importance (activity/upvotes), not because they are current or ‘breaking’. (Presumably though, you could filter the stories any number of ways).

The algorithm would be key here: ‘Importance’ would need to trump ‘popularity’ somehow (if that’s even possible).

EDITED 2011.07.27 to add information about Delayed Gratification magazine, pointed out by Joe in the comments.

The magazine

Delayed Gratification is a quarterly publication from The Slow Journalism Company. Each issue distils three months of the UK’s political, cultural, scientific and sporting life into a witty magazine of record. A combination of almanac, essays and reportage, Delayed Gratification operates on the principles of Slow Journalism.

Slow Journalism

Slow Journalism measures news in months not minutes, returning to stories after the dust has settled. The Slow Journalism Company offers an antidote to throwaway media and makes a virtue of being the last to breaking news. Its publications are beautiful, collectible and designed to be treasured.

(via Delayed Gratification | The UK’s Quarterly Almanac | Last to breaking news – dgquarterly.com)

EDITED 2011.07.28 to include relevant story:

Among the assumptions I wanted to test during my time at RJI was the idea that news consumers really are looking for context rather than merely the latest news. After all, during years of working in online newsrooms, I’d seen plenty of deep, contextual news packages ignored by our site users in favor of weather updates and crime reports. [...]

The answer was yes. The breakthrough news item of the year wasn’t an investigation that yielded some hot new scoop, it was a piece of on-the-record explanatory reporting by “This American Life” and National Public Radio that went wildly viral. “The Giant Pool of Money” went on to become the most downloaded episode in the history of “This American Life,” garnering the award trifecta of a duPont, Peabody and Polk for its producers.

(via An Antidote for Web Overload – nieman.harvard.edu)

8 thoughts on “Permanews: Old news is good news

  1. Yes! I was thinking about something in a related area. My idea was some kind of search engine to show phrases like ‘is expected to’, ‘anticipated’, ‘likely to’, namely all the hallmarks of a possibly disposable story. The focus was more about showing the news industry as a bit of a speculative sham most of the time. The thing is, I don’t know if I particular care to show this, I kind of feel it to be true.Like your idea though, it’s better. The drawback is that news is NEW. Maybe it’s something else though.

  2. Sorry, didn’t really explain that. It would tie up the resolution of the story with the overblown promise. Often they’re far apart in online terms. Like Piano Man, for example. Who was found mute, playing a ‘virtuoso classical piano performance’http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4550069.stmbut, when all was said and done – and reported, could only actually tap one key.http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2005/08/22/exclusive-piano-man-sham-…I think for your idea I’d start with a prototype on a quick wiki, even a Google Doc, to see if it works.

  3. Far apart how? Because the story ended up being very different once all the facts were known?

  4. Slow Journalism measures news in months not minutes, returning to stories after the dust has settled. The Slow Journalism Company offers an antidote to throwaway media and makes a virtue of being the last to breaking news. Its publications are beautiful, collectible and designed to be treasured.

  5. Thanks Joe, that’s interesting. And yeah, Posterous is pretty flakey with comments.

  6. Far apart because the original story is not updated. It’s a snapshot which contains no references to what happened later.Also the unit of content is a page with that day’s story – or that hour or whatever. Occasionally typos or libel might be fixed but on the whole its totally static. And maybe in some ways that’s a vestige of paper-based news. We might be able to improve on that.

  7. Pingback: Redesigning news | halfblog.net

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