Publishers can gain additional insights into their operations by taking a second look at the average Article Lifespan of their news properties. Article Lifespan is the amount of time an article spends as a Current Article before moving into Archive. The average can be in hours for breaking news focused news properties, while it can be in days or even weeks for weekly and monthly magazines. Article Lifespan can be viewed as a coarse summary of ones operation. It reflects the staffing level, processes, and strategy a news property has established to put out content at a particular rate.
I would argue that each news property has an optimal average Article Lifespan!
The chart below shows the Article Lifespan of three different online news media properties. The red line represents a national, breaking news driven news property. The blue line represents a local news property and the green line represents a magazine property. We picked the same start time for all three news properties. Every hour, certain amount of articles for each property move from current to archive. The chart plots the percentage of articles remained current for the 100 hours since the start time.
In a world where there is no hunger and everyone lives in harmony, the Article Lifespan should align perfectly with the news property’s readers’ reading habits. If the readers check the site five times a day, one could argue that the articles should be refreshed five times a day. On the other hand, if the readers only visit the site on weekends, churning out articles daily could be a waste of effort. Of course, most established news properties serve multiple segments with various reading habits and reading habit itself is a distribution, not a single point. Though from a top down point of view, analyzing whether your organization structure and processes are optimized toward producing the right amount of content for the majority of your readers is a worthwhile exercise and it should be done periodically. After all, both the competitive landscape and reading habits change over time. Who knows when the next Paywall, iPad, or Flipboard is going to come out?
Is Article Lifespan part of your strategic discussion? How much alignment do you have with your core readers? Would love to hear your thoughts.