Talking Points Memo
The general manager of personalized news aggregator News.me, Jake Levine, lays out his theory of three distinct types of news consumption, each with a different community and pattern:
There’s world news or national news, which people usually get from large publishers like the New York Times or CNN. The typical behavior here is a daily headline scan and the occasional deep dive into one or two stories of interest. The community at play here is your city, your democracy, your world.
Then there’s a type of news that is more specific to a person’s interests — ESPN.com for sports, Mediagazer for media, Techmeme / Hacker News for technology, for example. … With this type of news you want to be aware of the major stories throughout the day, and will likely jump into a few of articles for the full story.
Then there’s highly personalized news. This requires the most significant effort from the user. … With this type of news, you’re aware of all of the day’s major stories, and likely reading with the intent of sharing back out to the people you care about. You read the news as a means to participate in the community that’s most important to you.”
I asked Levine to elaborate by email. He cited data on how often News.me subscribers open their daily email news digest and then which stories they click on. The digest contains the first and third types of news as defined above — a handful of editor’s-choice top stories, and a handful of the best stories shared by friends.
The first type, general-interest top news, draws mixed interest from News.me subscribers. Adding top world and national news to the News.me daily digest created a big boost in the number of people who bothered to open the emails (“Hey, that’s interesting!”), but “incredibly low click-through rates” on the headlines (“but not that interesting”).
“What we learned,” Levine told me, “is that people have a desire to be made aware of these big big stories, but most don’t really want to read them. A headline and 1-2 sentences is enough.”
The personalized type of news (filtered based on what a user’s Twitter or Facebook friends have shared) is much more engaging, Levine said, with more than 30 percent of readers clicking on at least one headline link.