Flash-life: The timeframe of relevance

news @ nature.com – Life is short in online news – How long did it take you to find this story?:

Are you reading this more than a day and a half after it was posted on Nature’s news site? If so, it’s a fair bet that either you’ve unearthed it from an archive or the article is unusually popular.

A team of scientists from Hungary and the United States has found that the majority of online news items have a lifetime of just 36 hours. As reporters have always suspected, yesterday’s news is stale, and the day before’s news is invisible.

We all know that news breaks fast and time is fleeting, now we’re trying to figure out how fast news becomes stale. The study goes on to explain that a “typical user” of the Hungarian site sees only 53 percent of the headlines before they fall off the home page and views only seven percent, the latter striking me as rather high in general but sensible in a small market.

What is important to understand is not what happens on the main page of a site, but how links to information are preserved and distributed so that they are more accessible than this study suggests. After all, bloggers (like I am doing now) point to stories, keeping those links alive for days or weeks. This study misses the vast majority of network effect that sustains and increases our access to information, albeit while containing a kernel of truth.

Nature is timing how long people take to find the story on its site. The original study is available here.

Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.