Hello there,

We begin this newsletter with a little confession: over the past year, we’ve sometimes been too adamant in saying that newsrooms should produce far fewer 'Update me' stories.

(To recap: Update me stories are generally straightforward news stories with a who-where-what approach, factually driven and intended to keep the public informed of newsworthy events. The research we shared in our user needs whitepaper shows that roughly 70% of stories belong to this category, while they only contribute to 20% of reach and even less to engagement or loyalty)

But, we hear you cry, isn't it the essence of journalism to keep the public informed about what is happening? And, sometimes, there just isn’t enough time to immediately provide the right context, or get the perfect angle. This comment comes up in discussions with clients all the time. The answer is of course yes, although this is often also achievable with an approach that considers other user needs.

A serious amount of data analysis and many discussions later, and we’ve gained a much better understanding about what kinds of pieces just aren’t worth making (the ‘just stop’ strategy, if you like) - and when it’s possible to add value to Update me stories with some clever steps.

This is one of the results of those data investigations. This decision matrix provides guidance for editors with a link to an extensive blog about the Update me user need, and a new client case that explores the question of which articles you should ‘just stop’. There are even tips for focusing on what your audience finds important.

BLOG: Good Update me stories do exist

If it’s a ‘high impact’ story on an essential topic, it’s totally fine to create an ‘Update me’ piece. You should own the story, push it to your users, and maybe start a folder to plan upcoming follow-ups or a liveblog to really claim the topic.

If the topic is trivial but it has a high impact, you should find the essence of the story before you create an Update me. For example: if the parking prices are rising in the city centre, the topic of ‘parking your car’ feels a bit trivial. But if the prices have doubled in two years, people are using city centres less, and shopkeepers are afraid they won’t have enough customers to stay afloat, the angle might shift to a more essential topic. So always refer back to the question ‘what is the story’ in the top left quadrant.

When we look in the bottom right, you’ll see stories that are essential but have low impact on your visitors. A perfect example would be a big earthquake killing people on the other side of the world. It has low impact on your local audience, but it’s essential to cover. These kind of stories are best covered from another user needs perspective because it will almost certainly engage your audience more effectively.

If it’s a trivial topic without impact, you should question whether it’s a story at all.

CLIENT CASE: Niche news site share their secrets

Research shows that social media platforms are becoming increasingly dominant in being creators of information, compared to news media. Moreover, the era in which the function of social media was simply to relay news from traditional media is over, as Ben Smith argues in his book, Traffic. The fact is that mainstream media are now faced with the challenge of how to distinguish themselves.

Often, you’ll find yourself needing to cover news that appears across your competitors’ front pages as well. If that’s the case, you can learn a lot about how to find and adopt a unique angle from what they do at niche news sites, like Chemistry World and FIN News.

Matt McCue from FIN News puts it like this:

“We aren’t trying to be everything for everyone, which is often the case with larger, mainstream broad coverage organisations. By knowing our role in the ecosystem and being very clear both internally with our staff and externally with our subscribers about our value-add we are able to consistently provide actionable, timely information to our readers.

What for many newspapers would be a “second day” or “third day” story can be our approach to coverage on the first day, essentially putting us ahead of larger organisations on what our readers actually care about.”


  • Bustle Digital Group’s flagship title Bustle published about 150 articles a day in 2022. But that was before search and social platforms changed their algorithms to prioritise quality over quantity. That number has since dropped to about 30-40 daily stories, writes Digiday.
  • It may not fit quite as well into the picture we like to paint of the various news needs that the public has, but we still find this scientific study interesting to share: Nature reported that negative words in news headlines increase the click-through rate. The contextual figures are interesting, so definitely worth a read.
  • For the past three years, The Fix has been keeping a list of European news brands with the most followers on TikTok. Daily Mail is still leading the list with over 8 million followers.
  • What always proves difficult with video initiatives on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube, is making them profitable and thus sustainable. You can find inspiration at TLDR News, a profitable, YouTube-native publisher staffed mostly by people in their twenties, as reported by Press Gazette.


This newsletter is primarily concerned with whether you can create good 'Update Me' stories, and the answer is yes. Are you now curious about how smartocto can help in providing focus with our data analyses and toolkits? We have created a deck where it's all described. If you respond to this email, we’ll send it to you. No obligation.

By the way… next week is the INMA World Congress of News Media. We’ll be there on Wednesday and Thursday. Meet us at our booth or, if you’re super organised, book a demo to claim a meeting before they get snapped up! 

See you!

Team smartocto