A timeline is a well-established story format. It can either act as Context to a story or be the story itself. It is also a high Shelf Life content Formats that can be maintained with minimal regular updates.
Topics that are ideal for timeline
- Topics that have a long history of being in the news, for example, war (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), scams, long-lasting court cases (Tarun Tejpal rape case), geopolitical conflicts, socio-political movements that organically gain relevance (Farmers Protests), roll out of major policy or legislation (GST)
- Events where the past directly impacts the present and future, for example, Sri Lanka’s economic situation, impacts of a major event e.g. 2008 recession, etc.
- Finally, events that happen frequently but without a regular pattern, for example, gun violence in the US, forest fires, major IPOs, etc.
- Scheduled events like sports tournaments (Olympics), national days (independence day), major competitive exam announcements, announcements of major court cases, etc.
- Ad hoc events like Neeraj Chopra’s Olympics win, the tragic death of General Bipin Rawat, etc.
Live updating topics:
- Fast unfolding novel events like natural calamities, man-made disasters (fires, train derailments, etc.), terrorist attacks and major crimes.
- Scheduled events like sports matches, parliament sessions and stock market updates.
- Important events within a macro topic like election counting day, announcements of major court case verdicts, etc.
The transient nature of content trends: Many times, people start media operations with the central focus being a certain form of content production. These forms are typically a fleeting trend that lacks staying power. Moreover, if the trend does persist, imitation becomes inevitable due to the inherent lack of defensibility.
Case in point – the news sector: In recent years, we’ve seen several of these trends.
- Mobile journalism, for instance, which replaced traditional TV crews with on-the-go mobile recording, had its moment of popularity.
- Then came the rise of solutions journalism, which shifted the spotlight from issues to their potential resolutions.
- Vox pioneered in establishing the “explainer journalism” niche.
- Furthermore, we saw other trends like drone journalism, sensor journalism, forensic journalism, and so on.
- These shifts underscore the evolving landscape of content creation.
The cost of producing high-quality editorial product is high. However, the Digital Advertisements business model values page views irrespective of whether the content is cat videos or highly researched content. Hence, it is highly recommended to create to evergreen content, like Work Products, deep explainers, Timeline, and data dives can explain the Context. Such content remains usable months/years in the future.
- News is a fast-moving consumer good. Hence, most news is about reporting what is happening. However, this content tends to be fast-moving, shallow and has short shelf-life.
- To maintain high shelf life content, you need to invest in a workflow that allows for updating of previously published content.
Insight Density is the number of Aha moments for every 100 words. A good example is the series Two minutes with Seth Godin that Blinkist ran. Each 2-minute episode in this 50-episode series forced one to think.
One can employ Artificial Intelligence to detect which sentences are insight-dense. For example, TextRank finds how similar each sentence is to all other sentences in the text. The most important sentence is the one that is most similar to all the others, with this in mind the similarity function should be oriented to the semantic of the sentence, cosine similarity based on a bag of words approach can work well and BM25/BM25+ work really nicely for TextRank.
A Digiday article talks about the cautionary story of Mic.com. It started in 2012 and across its lifetime has raised ~ $60 million. From 2012 until 2019, it has pivoted its Niche and Formats multiple times, each time struggling to find a moat.
- 2012: Posts on policy-making for progressive, young audiences.
- 2014: Posts on news for progressive, young audiences from Social (Facebook).
- 2016: Posts on news for progressive, young audiences from SEO.
- 2017: Videos on news for progressive, young audiences from SEO.
- 2018: Content agency but eventually laid off the majority of its staff.
There are many such stories of badly selected niches:
- Quartz which grew out of The Atlantic was The Economist but free.
Editorial Products demonstrate judgment and a world view — a form of consistent sensibility and quirk that optimizes for something. It could be Insight Density, political leaning, social justice, Click-bait, etc.
This editorial judgment determines what the audiences will see, what will get omitted out, how it is presented, when it will be published, and by whom.
And this is how** **work products set the agenda for a certain aspect in the minds of a target audience. No! It isn’t always passionate activism. Work Products are often utility oriented.
Context is the background or surrounding circumstances in which something occurs. It can refer to the setting, situation, or environment in which a particular event or situation takes place.
Why it matters: As professionals or experts within a Niche field, we are attenuated to the details. However, the same might not be true for your audience.
Click-baiting’ is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.
Readers experience Context Collapse, i.e., not fully understand or misinterpret the meaning, when they read or consume information that was not written for them or for then.
The details: It is likely to happen:
- When talking about under-reported phenomena and slow-moving movements that require a longitudinal outlook to grasp
- When discussing fast-moving topics where the situation is dynamic and information can become stale fast
- When talking across cultural boundaries
What you can do about it?
- Declare your Assumed Audience.
- The Posts format was an acceptable format for the print newspaper. Every day, the reader would trash today’s newspaper and start afresh. Online, articles stay around forever. When we write stories on unfolding events, the information published in the article might not be accurate after a day or two. Yet, this is archived forever and can drive misinformation. One solution for this is to put a message at the top of a dated article.