Breaking news is no longer relevant to employee newsletters


In a world where information is instantly available 24/7, how important is news—especially in an employee newsletter that is distributed weekly or even less often?

The short answer is: not very important. When something urgent and important occurs, employees seek instant information. So it's effective to send an alert via email or text. Or post a news item on the intranet or the social media site.

What isn't effective is waiting to share news several days or weeks later in the newsletter. And if you do include content as is (without additional context), it just seems like old news. 

For context on this issue, read this Online Publishing Insider blog, “Online News: Where The Second-Minute Story Counts More Than The First” by Jeffrey Rothfeder. (It's a few years old, but the point is still relevant.)

Mr. Rothfeder’s piece is aimed at journalists, but his key point also applies to employee communication:

“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 employees have already heard the news long before the newsletter is distributed.

So, to be valuable, newsletters 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. 

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