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36 hours is the life expectancy of online news

Just catching up on some reading and this story stood out as one of those I can't let pass without posting:

If you think you're reading the news, be warned that this story -- and any other on the web -- will be barely read by anyone 36 hours after it was first posted. That's the message from a team of statistical physicists who have analysed how people access information online. Albert-László Barabási of the University of Notre Dame in the US and colleagues in Hungary have calculated that the number of people who read news stories on the web decays with time in a power law, and not exponentially as commonly thought. Most news becomes old hat within a day and a half of being posted -- a finding that could help website designers or people trying to understand how information gets transferred in biological cells and social networks (Phys. Rev. E 73 066132).

Ironically, of course, I'm reading and re-reporting this story eight days (192 hours) after it was posted...

Which may go to prove Steve Rubel's point that blogs keep news alive for longer:

While I don't doubt the research (I nearly failed higher math), somehow I don't believe it takes the blogosphere fully into account. Blogs do a marvelous job of keeping a story alive for more than 36 hours. I'd love to see someone build on this with blog data.

But the study's hypothesis stacks up against personal experience of writing this blog.

Every now and again an Open article will get a flurry of renewed interest, but it tends to be features, more in-depth rather than the pass-it-on news or semi-scoops that would be the other kind of post I write sometimes.

Message to bloggers: aggregating news gives you currency and immediacy, but unless you are a consistent and frenetic aggregator / re-reporter then adding real value to the network, and therefore earning sustainable prominence in it, will come from advice, original thought, opinion and useful analysis.

You can download the whole study in a PDF.

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Thirty-six hours sound right to me. I will look for the latest items, and only for research purposes would I go back beyond that period. If it’s older than 36 hours, it stops being news and starts being history, especially when aggregated on Google News these days.

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