The presentation of news has adapted to digital disruption through new video and online formats, but the “when” of digital content distribution has been slow to adapt, potentially limiting audience size, journalistic influence and resource optimization.
Using RSS feeds, I determined the publication schedules of a number of media companies, both new media and old. Just over 8% of articles from Quartz are published at 7am, with an additional 8% published at 11am. NYT World has a publishing peak at 5am with 10% of articles published then. The Guardian’s publishing is spread out between 2am and 2pm. Distributed content on third-party platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and more, adds complexity.
Together, this data suggests that there is an industry wide gap between when audiences read the news and when media companies publish the news to be read. It seems that many media companies continue to publish according to traditional print schedules that are irrelevant to online readers.
This could be limiting value to audiences and the media. Giving readers the right content at the right time could help publishers create more value for readers, while simultaneously increasing page views, loyalty and awareness of available content.
In the long run, media organizations must think critically about their audiences’ behaviors. Understanding audience trends and applying them to specific organizational structures — like publishing schedules — will result in more resilient and long-lasting organizations.
In journalism, there is an inherent tension between editorial independence and corporate profitability that can prevent newsrooms from taking a holistic, company-wide approach to problem solving. It is important to consider how we got to this point and what led to this mismatch when considering how to change it. It is not enough to simply identify the optimum digital publishing schedule. It is necessary to change newsroom culture to encourage and enable ongoing adaptation.