Friday, July 31, 2009

How fast is the news?

Just had an interesting discussion about the speed of news today--a continual and favored topic of mine. We were talking about the New York Times News Alert--their email alert system where you can sign up and get quick emails about breaking news stories. But I also signed up for a Twitter news alert called Breaking News On or Since I'm not on Twitter all the time (thank goodness) I also signed up for their email alerts. What I found is that BNO consistently beats NYT by as much as a half hour with their email alerts.

Most of you reading this--if you got through all the junk about email alerts and Twitter and all that--are saying big deal. Most people will go home, pick up their newspapers or watch the evening news and what difference does the half hour make? Well, a lot actually. But the person I was talking to was 32 years old (my son actually) and he said, if they miss it by a half an hour I want to know what else they are missing and if I can really trust them?

The truth is all news organizations today compete on the basis of speed. If they are not covering what is happening right now, they lose their audience. If they lose their audience they lose their advertising revenues and they go out of business. But, if they are not immediate they also lose their credibility. Isn't it amazing that a 19 year (that is who runs BNO) sitting in a dark room with a whole bunch of computer monitors can consistently beat the major news organizations with breaking news. They beat LA Times on the Michael Jackson story by half an hour.

But, pity the New York Times and your local daily. They have to compete not only with a dedicated and nimble 19 year old, but with literally millions of citizens out there with cell cameras and videos and who know how to post to their blog, YouTube or Flickr in an instant. That's where the news is coming from these days. Want to know what that 19 year old is scanning for all that news? Yes, the internet and all the news stories that emerge virtually instantaneously.

The implications for crisis management is immense. When the big event happens, anyone who observes becomes not just a journalist, but the media itself. They are the broadcaster. In literally seconds or minutes at most, what they broadcast is picked up by the likes of BNO and their competitors. Then, about 20 minutes later, the NYT and LAT will be sending an email alert out to the world. If it is big enough, the cable channels, local channels and every news site worth its salt will be sending the news about your big event. And what will you be doing? Trying to assemble your PIOs and trying to form a JIC.

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