I’ve spent the last couple of days putting together content for my October 11 web workshop, Make your newsletter meaningful and relevant. Although the workshop was inspired by an IABC New Jersey panel discussion I was part of earlier this year, most of the content is completely new. So, as I usually do when developing new material, I began by reading everything I can about the topic.

My first find was a good one: The September 27 Online Publishing Insider blog, “Online News: Where The Second-Minute Story Counts More Than The First” by Jeffrey Rothfeder.

Mr. Rothfeder’s piece is aimed at journalists, but his key point also applies to employee communication: In a world where information is instantly available 24/7, how important is breaking news?

“The Internet and new digital consumer devices are clearly continuing to rewrite the model for great journalism, fundamentally altering the way we engage readers,” writes Mr. Rothfeder.

The major factor today is that “readers know most of the top and breaking news stories of the day before they reach your site.”

That means when readers open a newsletter or visit a news site, what they seek “is not ‘just-the-facts’ speed, but depth, substance and thoroughness delivered quickly.”

The implication for news media, suggests Mr. Rothfeder, is the need to reinvent what used to be known as “second-day” stories, “in which journalists could take a 24-hour news cycle to carefully construct explanatory, broader” analyses of the issue.

Today, to give the audience the unique content it craves, the media must develop “second-minute stories,” which deliver context, analysis and explanation almost at the same time as news is breaking.

For employee communication, this phenomenon is particularly relevant, since internal newsletters today contain almost no real news. Employees have already heard about the topic long before the newsletter is distributed.

So, to be valuable, newsletters (and the intranet home pages they link to) should not focus on reporting news. Instead, they need to deliver information employees can’t find anywhere else. That means putting issues in context, giving fresh perspectives and, most importantly, providing a service to employees—answering questions, solving problems and helping them get things done.

In other words, the focus of today’s employee newsletters is not news. Want to learn more? I invite you to attend my upcoming workshop.

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