Is the move by The Times to three daily digital editions a sign that we have reached 'peak news'?

For years we have been told news is moving at ever greater speeds; that the news never stops. The assumption has been that is what people want; they want to be the first to know.

Have we reached 'peak news'? asks John Higginson
Have we reached 'peak news'? asks John Higginson
We have been told newspapers will soon die; that they are filled with ‘old’ news that is of no interest to people because everyone has read the story online already.

Citizen journalists who tweet the news before a trained journalist can get to the scene have made the profession almost obsolete, we have been led to believe.

So why would The Times look to make its website more like a newspaper by producing three daily editions rather than giving readers stories as soon as they break?

Surely the internet has done away with such delay? Instant gratification is what we all want.

The Times Online is one of the few paywall success stories with more than 400,000 digital subscribers.

So when it makes what, at first appearances, seems such a backwards move it is probably worth asking why?

According to Alan Hunter, head of digital at The Times, his readers "talk about content shock" and "a feeling they can’t keep up".

Times Online readers may not be the only one feeling like they are drowning in news. There are other signs that our love of constant news updates may be slowing.

In February, Twitter announced user growth had almost ground to a halt in the previous quarter, while on the streets of Peckham and Hoxton hipsters are abandoning smartphones in favour of old Nokias on which they can only make calls, text and play Snake.

So is this a sign that we have reached ‘peak news’?

It may seem counterintuitive to look to newspapers for the answer less than a month after The Independent shut down its presses, and the decline in newspaper readers doesn’t look like it is going to reverse any time soon.

But while one day the thought of chopping down a tree before consuming the news may seem as antiquated as killing a whale before turning on the light, the format of a newspaper seems to have life – even if the medium does not.

It is the idea that people want someone with more knowledge than them to work out what is important and, more importantly, what is not and then only tell them about the former. 

Yes, there will continue to be a demand for breaking news when big stories are breaking.

But just as most of us prefer to pay a fund manager to pick stocks for us, there are signs on the horizon that people are growing frustrated with the modern phenomenon of having to act as unpaid news editors, sifting the wheat from the chaff themselves.

In this context, the old-fashioned model of paying journalists to spend all day at the news coalface, testing the fundamentals and binning the rubbish before giving us a half-hour briefing, looks as appealing as ever.

John Higginson is head of corporate comms at ICG 

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