Giving control of a website to a communicator can be like giving
a pub to an alcoholic.

Writers and communicators have many of the skills needed to
achieve great things on the Web. Public websites and intranets
run on content. Writers and communicators have been trained in
creating content. There should be a natural fit.

However, when communicators get control of websites,
particularly intranets, they immediately make them look like
daily newspapers. News is important on an intranet but it is
rarely the top task.

When the homepage is dominated by news you are not necessarily
communicating more. In many situations, you are damaging your
reputation as a quality news source. Forcing news into people’s
faces just annoys them.

Many websites also make the mistake of increasing the quantity
of news they publish. Another element that will certainly help
turn people away is the use of websites for propaganda.

A press release is classic propaganda. It is written in a
fawning, self-congratulatory manner. (I’m speaking as someone
who has written quite a few of them.) Historically, press
releases were never intended to be read by the public. They were
a way to sell a story to the press. They have a place in a
website’s press archive, but they should not be on a homepage.
Publishing a press release on a homepage says the communicator
is too lazy to take the press release and turn it into a

We are dealing with a world exploding with news. A June 2008
study published by The Associated Press of Young Adults’ News
Consumption found increasing signs of “news fatigue.” One of the
negative results of news fatigue was that the more overwhelmed
or unsatisfied young people became, the less effort they were
willing to put in.

The study went on to state that “this young audience had little
patience for formats that promise and don’t deliver.” It’s not
just a young audience that is proving impatient and skeptical. I
remember being with an engineer once as he scanned the intranet
homepage of his organization. He shook his head and smiled
cynically. “Not another ‘our great organization saving the world
and feeding the hungry children’ PR story,” he sneered. “I want
hard news, practical news. I want news that will give me ideas
for new products.”

“The enlightened consumers turned news into “units” of social
currency that could be used in a variety of interpersonal
situations – to look smart, connect with friends and family and
even move up the socio-economic ladder,” The Associated Press
study stated.

“The competing notions of “news fatigue” and “news as social
currency” stand out among these findings,” the study continued.
“This study demonstrated across cultural boundaries that the
news can turn consumers off, just as easily as it can turn them
on. The key value point to the audience was news they could

In an age of attention deficit and impatience, news created on
organizational websites and intranets needs to be brutally
action-oriented and to-the-point It needs to help people do
things. It needs to be practical and real. And it needs to be
newsworthy-not simply put up because it’s Tuesday and we need to
publish something.

Customers need news they can use.

A New Model for News Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult
News Consumption

Gerry McGovern