First off if you missed it be sure to check out Deb’s post on luck vs. work – it’s excellent and one of the better posts I’ve read in a while.
Now, on the topic of breaking news at a blog… I’m bringing it up because recently one of my clients has been asking all the writers on staff to break more news. This isn’t a new deal; many clients want what they call, “breaking news” posted at their blog because they think it will be a good traffic draw which is true in some cases but not all (more on this in a minute). However, breaking news at a blog is different than simple breaking news and writing breaking news posts is not always a good use of your time.
What is breaking news?
Breaking news by design is news that’s fresh, just in, recently discovered; well you know the drill. NEW news. The deal with blogs is that they don’t always have staff out interviewing people, talking to companies and gathering stories from the community, so I’d argue that most blogs don’t succeed in actually breaking news so much as they succeed at posting other folks’ breaking news.
To me, genuine breaking news is something I haven’t heard yet and to really get that you can’t just be blogging at home, you’ll also need to be a blogger on the go. You’d be attending conferences and events related to your topic and live blogging said events plus you’d be out there talking to people in the community or calling companies for interviews.
Is breaking news a good traffic draw?
I think it depends on your niche and your style. If you write a celebrity blog then yeah, having breaking news and images is a good thing. Breaking news will likely get you read, subscribed to and keep readers coming back for more. If you write a blog about a specific product topic say toys, architecture, child product recalls or even something small that people are interested in like cookbooks, then yes, breaking news of a new product can earn you traffic. On the flip-side, if you write an advice minded blog you can slack more on breaking news and focus on evergreen topics. For example, people always want to know how to save for college, how to recycle, how to plan a party or how to get a baby to stop crying.
To sum up readers expect breaking news in relation to some topics but not others. You need to decide what sort of blog you have and report breaking news based on your decision.
Second-hand breaking news: I don’t know if anyone else uses this term, but what I see as second hand breaking news is news that you don’t break to the world but you do break it first or pretty darn early in your specific niche. This is one reason why it’s so important to read your competitors blogs and follow the news so you get an idea of what’s currently hot. Second hand breaking news can be a good traffic draw depending on how quick you are.
Second hand breaking news can also be a good traffic draw even if you don’t have a dedicated breaking news sort of blog – what matters is if the news affects your readers. For example, I write mostly on eco-topics. When news about a new line of green toys from a major green toy company broke one night I happened to be up and browsing the web, saw the news on a major news site and posted it right away at my client’s blog which happens to cover (in part) eco-toys. That earned us some traffic perks because I got the news posted before most other blogs in our specific niche.
Should you waste time breaking second hand news?
Again, I think it’s a benefit depending on your niche, although most topics do have some sort of breaking news once in a while, even an advice or evergreen topic type blog. It can also help to set you apart as unique if your readers can trust that you’ll give them the news goods before another blog in your niche.
One example I can think of where breaking second hand news is obnoxious and not worth your time is when all the other blogs in your niche have hit that news already. If you write a baby blog and there’s a major story that breaks on some new study about baby vaccines and the story has already been written about by all the major news companies, your competitors and tweeted to death by every mama on earth, then why post it? Everyone knows. If you have a totally original take that’s one thing, but rehashing exactly what other people have already offered is boring and not very useful to your readers – there’s a killer chance your readers read other blogs in your niche. You likely won’t get as many traffic perks at this point either.
When considering if you should post second hand breaking news it’s a good idea to take five minutes, search some of your competitors blogs and also the general web to see how covered the news is. If the news is cool and hasn’t been mentioned much (or at all) I’d write fast and get it on your blog but if not focus on some more original content that readers haven’t seen a million times today.
The exception: I write a pregnancy and baby blog for one client. If I see a major recall and it’s a little late in the game, I’d still post it because it’s a safety issue. Safety issues to me are a big deal and even if they’ve been covered to death, some parent may have missed it. However, if I’m not breaking the news second hand, but third, fourth or fifth hand I’ll usually just write a little blurb about it with links to more info. I won’t waste my time writing some big ol’ post about it.
To sum up: finding brand new breaking news and even brand new second hand breaking news is something that can time and energy. Before you use that time and energy decide if news of this sort will benefit your blog or your client’s blog or if you’d benefit more from using that time and energy to write three evergreen or advice minded posts.
Coming up: Where to find breaking news and breaking second hand news plus some tips for folks who do want to post this sort of news but use less time and energy doing so.
What’s your take on breaking news and second hand news? Do you spend a lot of time looking for breaking news or no? Is this something your clients want?