Limiting limitless news

“Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s just a pendulum swinging back, but data suggests people are moving in the direction of more finite forms of news in their diets.”

For years, we’ve been serving up a bottomless cup of news. We believe it slakes the addiction our audiences have for news. And it energizes our business models. But there are growing signs people’s tastes may be changing.

Back in my day (yes, I’m finally old enough to say crap like that!) the newspaper was only so many pages long. Even the Sunday New York Times could be read in full. The nightly TV news was 30 minutes. And NPR’s All Things Considered was 90 minutes long, with classical music before and after.

In other words, once you were done reading the paper, watching or listening to the news you felt caught up. Now everything is designed to keep you gorging on it as algorithms serve up more and more news content picked just for you!

Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s just a pendulum swinging back, but data suggests people are moving in the direction of more finite forms of news in their diets. Daily news podcasts and newsletters are a growing way people are getting their news. Most daily news podcasts are relatively short, meaning that in 10, 20, or perhaps 30 minutes you can walk away feeling like you are pretty well informed. Newsletters also give you that sense of “Okay, I’m caught up,” so you can turn your attention to something else.

I expect this trend to pick up steam. People are reacting to the last few years of overwhelming news with self-care — and often that means breaking away from doomscrolling.

Tamar Charney is consulting senior supervising producer for NPR’s Throughline.

For years, we’ve been serving up a bottomless cup of news. We believe it slakes the addiction our audiences have for news. And it energizes our business models. But there are growing signs people’s tastes may be changing.

Back in my day (yes, I’m finally old enough to say crap like that!) the newspaper was only so many pages long. Even the Sunday New York Times could be read in full. The nightly TV news was 30 minutes. And NPR’s All Things Considered was 90 minutes long, with classical music before and after.

In other words, once you were done reading the paper, watching or listening to the news you felt caught up. Now everything is designed to keep you gorging on it as algorithms serve up more and more news content picked just for you!

Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s just a pendulum swinging back, but data suggests people are moving in the direction of more finite forms of news in their diets. Daily news podcasts and newsletters are a growing way people are getting their news. Most daily news podcasts are relatively short, meaning that in 10, 20, or perhaps 30 minutes you can walk away feeling like you are pretty well informed. Newsletters also give you that sense of “Okay, I’m caught up,” so you can turn your attention to something else.

I expect this trend to pick up steam. People are reacting to the last few years of overwhelming news with self-care — and often that means breaking away from doomscrolling.

Tamar Charney is consulting senior supervising producer for NPR’s Throughline.

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