Newspapers, it’s said, need to focus more. That’s clearly true in a world where there’s competition for readers coming from a multitude of directions. The old model, where newspaper provided good-enough coverage of a broad range of things, is going away as niche sites and publications pick of segment after segment of readers with focused and targeted coverage.
But there’s another good reason for focus. Even if a paper had great, but episodic, coverage of a broad range of topics, it’s hard for it to build up a strong archive on any given topic. And in a world of structured journalism, where the value of the package of coverage is greater than the sum of the stories, it pays much more to be building a body of coverage.
In other words, if we have a Pulitzer-prize winning story on a sports scandal today, and then uncover corruption in city hall tomorrow, and have a tear-jerking tale of illegal immigrants the day after, and keep that up – that’s great for that day’s reading, but doesn’t really build up a strong archive/structured database of information that adds value over time. We don’t find out if the sports scandal changed anything unless we go back to revisit that theme a year later – and during that time, our readers learn nothing new.
Better that we write about sports every day, say, even at the expense of the great city hall corruption story, so that after a while we have a pool of well-structured sports stories that can give us broader insights into how sports is run/how the teams are doing etc and that whenever a reader calls up a story, he or she taps into a regularly updated pool of information that’s always as fresh as it can be.