Almost all news brands create too many 'Update me' stories, as we can see in the data. Some clients have the desire to prevent overproduction of the basic who-what-where pieces, but how do you do that?

I will start this blog with a summary of the message that we continue to repeat at events, courses, and on this website: 30-35% of the stories that any news brand publishes online should not have been made.

Yes, that means that 1 in 3 stories hardly contributes to important metrics such as reach, engagement, loyalty, conversions - anything... In recent blogs, we explain how you can measure success and how you can effectively improve 'breaking news' stories. Now, we believe it's time for a checklist that will prevent you from typing updates that do not or hardly resonate with your audience. The interesting part is that you will create this checklist yourself.

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What's wrong with 'Update me' stories?

We will assist you with a checklist, but first, let's explain the user needs model and this specific user need in a few sentences. The user needs model that we have updated this year assumes that there are specific reasons why people consume journalistic stories. To understand, to get help or be inspired, for example. But also to be informed about what is going on. The latter need is called 'Update me' in the BBC's original model. It's as simple as that.

What we then say is: if you have a good understanding of these specific needs, you are better able to determine a strategy from the company's perspective, and on an individual level, it helps you during the creative process. You can more easily come up with angles that align with the desires of your audience.

In our whitepaper on the updated user needs model, we compare production to impact using a few graphs from clients. BBC World Service already noticed that 70 percent of the stories generated only 7 percent reach. Similar figures were found in our research on user needs. For example, this brand has only 8.5% article reads on 'Update me' stories, while over half (57%) of that category is produced by the editorial team:

update me overproduced

Which stories should you not create?

Now, we can hear you thinking, which stories should the editorial team drop? That question is not easy to answer. I myself have been a reporter-editor at major online news brands for 10 years, and I believe these situations are recognisable to everyone:

  1. The subject is important, but there is (still) little information available. For example, an airplane skidded off the runway during landing. You want to let the audience know that you have seen what happened and are working on it. You create a post with the information you already have.
  2. You know that a topic is far removed from your audience, but you don't want to ignore it because it has a significant impact on those involved. Out of respect, you think: this story needs to be told.
  3. It is ingrained in your system that this is how you present a story. Factual, orderly, distant, objective. You have been trained to structure your story in this way.
  4. This one is unpleasant to mention, but let's be honest: you needed to fill a time slot. Or there was still a gap on the newspaper page. Or you promised a colleague that you would work on the topic. You had too little time to delve deeper into it.

Take a scroll through the homepage of your own website and try to assess the value of the stories. Do you see anything that you can suspect falls into one of the above situations?

By now, you can sense that it is quite a challenge to completely eliminate these four scenarios. Maybe you are setting the bar too high. But at the very least, you could brainstorm with your colleagues on how to avoid the biggest missteps. Two simple questions can help:

  1. Does this story (that you find important) have an angle that satisfies another user need better? Check out the explanation of our 8 user needs here.
  2. If an 'Update me' story fits best here, what are the minimum requirements it should meet? Refer to the checklist you have created.

What does your checklist look like?

Why should you create such a checklist yourself? Well, not every news brand is the same, not all editorial teams are the same. The New York Times has different standards than... fill in the blank - I don't want to insult anyone. But more importantly, you need to believe in the checklist yourself. If we were to come up with it, you would always have reasons to deviate from it.

Participants of one of our clients who are working with user needs have already created their own checklist. We present them below for inspiration, along with comments.


What's interesting about this list is that this editor believes that 'Update me' stories should currently take place. This means that you wouldn't come across the following headlines anymore:

  • Multi-year international study finds anti-aging properties in taurine
  • More European companies declared bankrupt If you consider the impact on society as an important point, try to have a clear understanding of what you mean by that. If only one person is affected by the event, is that enough?

In this checklist, the last comment is worth discussing. If you would want or be able to write an article on this topic later, it is a good indication of an 'Update me' article. There is certainly something to it. Below, we talk about the thought train.

There are subjects for which you already know in advance that you will dedicate a long series of articles or segments to them. However, there is a pitfall because if your mind is already focused on the follow-ups, is the 'Update me' story still worth it? Couldn't you simply drop the first article? You would then invest your time and energy into the next article where you can provide more explanation, for example. And you would distract less attention from your audience.

Thoughts train
update me checklist

And now, the final source of inspiration for this blog: attention to the who-what-where question once again. But also: as soon as possible. Some news brands are known for being quick with information, and that can be a tremendous asset. Our only comment is: is this truly the quality that sets your brand apart from the competition? The answer may be yes, but sometimes it's also an assumption. Be cautious about that.

Dive into the data, talk to colleagues, and maybe even engage with website visitors. And create your own checklist this week.

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