[BREAKING NEWS] CNN Acknowledges Breaking News Doesn’t Matter

Since CNN unveiled the new design for its home page yesterday at a press event in New York City, there has been a significant amount of discussion (correction, “discussion,” they are just retweets of Mashable’s post) on the new look for CNN.com.

The reason I’m taking some space this morning (in what has been a very light posting month, unfortunately) is that something is jumping out at me. If featured content areas are the “above the fold” of online media, then managing editors over at CNN have clearly made that even more featured. The headlines section is minor and seems more like a navigation window than key, first-click content.

To me, this is the same change that ESPN.com made in the last year: headlines, minor, driving content, featured.

Take a step back: that acknowledges how the game is played online. Breaking News is everywhere, and, time and time again in 2009, it has been social media to announce a developing story. Look at last week’s Attic Boy incident: it was a failed attempt at breaking a story to which only mainstream media could really tell by way of its satellite trucks. I don’t know if this is the same logic as the powers that be behind CNN.com, moving away from a headline driven home page offers three benefits:

  1. Flexibility. A headline has to be text and it has to be brief – you know, like a tweet. Making rich media the center is a more bendable content shape to fit things into.
  2. Avoiding the battle to be first means that you can take time to be right. Sure, a stub article may appear shortly after the Tweet army gets it trending – it’ll be buried on the left side of the new CNN.com page – but other than that, let it be and get it accurate.
  3. The journalism that does cost money/take time to produce can be featured, drive more views and content interactions that will lead to higher traffic and, thus, incoming links and online reputation. There is a return on the investment for the highest quality articles (what some would refer to as “professional” journalism), providing justification for the organization to keep a deep bench of trained reporters. They have a way to use them effectively and toward a high-return.

So, did CNN officially admit that they don’t need to break news? No, not at all. Is the intention just enriching content? Probably, but there just may be a new business model hidden within that new, portal-like design.

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