Thanks to Facebook‘s open graph newspaper apps from the likes of the Independent and Guardian have opened us up to the reading habits of friends and fuelled our thirst for instant news in an altogether different dimension. Expect that to change as Facebook’s Timeline rollout comes into play over the next few months but we could see the biggest shift happen in archived news, as “old news” becomes “new news”.
If you’re using these newspaper apps you may have noticed a recent trend towards “old news”, with users assuming the news is in fact current. For example, today a headline caught my eye because a couple of friends had read the same story… “Radio 1 DJ jailed for four years in Dubai on cannabis charge“. In my head I thought “no way, I thought that was concluded years ago!”, in my curiosity I clicked the link, read the story from start to finish and finally glanced to the top of the page. Date, “Wednesday 20th February 2008”. My hunch was right, but by this time I had fuelled the viral hunger by exposing the story to my network.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, last week I picked up a story on the Independent website via a friend about the ex-Manchester United footballer Ronnie Wallwork being banned for life. I thought “is he still playing for United?! Hasn’t this happened before?!”, it was old news, 1999 to be precise.
I’ll be the first to admit this is annoying but it unearths an interesting social trend, similar to others that have emerged before. Take Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” for example, applicable to the Amazon business model. Essentially, all the niche products that you couldn’t or wouldn’t fit in a physical location, such as a shop, are worth more collectively than the bestsellers at the time. The same could be said for music downloads. As downloads emerged, whole back catalogues of artists became relevant again. For example, a song performed on the X Factor in “80s Week” would no doubt shoot up the iTunes chart – something that would never have happened in physical sales.
How does that apply to newspaper apps and Facebook? As more and more “old news” goes viral via Facebook, hits on websites hosting the stories will be spread across a wider base. Impressions on webpages that have been relatively inactive for years, may be reignited with lots of traffic. Traffic equals money to site owners and therefore a similar revolution to “The Long Tail” evolves.
If this trend takes hold, it could to boost an otherwise struggling news industry. Whether discovering archived news becomes a nostalgic guilty pleasure or if it creates a relentlessly frustrating user experience, it will be interesting to see if Facebook will develop a way of sorting news by date as it comes in comes into the system – much like Google has done through their search engine.
For now, it seems Facebook is well and truly old news.