Try as you might to control the home page of a news site, to set the agenda, to drive readers to the stories you think are most important, readers can find what they want on the Web without your help.
They don’t need you, editor.
What they need is news. And by news, I mean useful information about the neighborhood and/or town and/or state and/or country and/or world they live in or care about.
Yesterday’s news is not as useful as today’s news. Take that as a given.
Enter the River of News, stage left:
That’s the New York Times, stripped of all ornamentation and visual framing, spit back out in a form that screens and phones and devices can easily understand and display as best suits them, at a reader’s request.
You can thank Dave Winer for that.
Doc Searls periodically reminds newspapers that the first part of that compound word is news not olds, and he’s done so again today:
“News is a river, not a lake. It is active, not static. It’s what’s happening, not what happened. Or not only what happened. But what happened — news as olds — is how we’ve understood news for as long as we’ve had newspapers. The happening kind of news came along with radio, and then television. Then we called it ‘live’. Still, even on the nightly news, what’s live is talking heads and reports from the field. The rest is finished stuff.”
So how can newspapers move from dead trees to the live web?
If we can take the simple steps of stepping away from the automated nightly feed and make it someone’s job to handle, edit, and post breaking news as it happens, live, then like Doc says, “This distinction is what will have us soon talking about the life of newspapers, rather than the death of them.”
Bonus link: Patrick Beeson says newspapers can learn from Twitter’s simplicity.