News today is all about being first; 'real time' is king; users want the latest information in the quickest possible time delivered straight to their mobile device so they are constantly kept abreast of unfolding world events. Right?
Well, yes... and no.
It seems that Facebook is producing something of a Lazarus effect for old news content. Stories that were written more than a decade ago are increasingly becoming viral phenomena thanks to the new 'frictionless sharing' system introduced by the social network in September.
Frictionless sharing means that articles read by Facebook users are automatically shared with friends. This means that if you happen to glance at a story with a sensationalist headline that was published by a site that uses a Facebook app to integrate their content into the network via "open graph", then that sensational headline will appear on all your friends' newsfeeds - many of whom are just as likely to be lured to click on said headline as you were. This process is repeated several times over; and then again; and again. Thus, the article goes viral.
The Guardian and The Independent have both integrated their content into Facebook and this has lead to wide and rapid distribution of their content via the social network.
The strange thing is that - without any effort or intention on their part- many of the most popular stories from these papers on Facebook have not been to do with revolution in Egypt or US presidential campaigns, but they have instead been articles from the late 1990s. As the FT Techhub reports, the most shared list on The Independent website has been littered with stories with headlines like: 'Sean, 12, is youngest father'.
What does this mean for newspapers?
As Facebook intended, it means that Facebook users are increasingly turning to the social network for news. As a recent study by Lightspeed Research has revealed that Facebook is a more important source of news than newspapers for those aged 18-35 in the UK and is consulted twice as much as Twitter.
It also means that newspapers should possibly reconsider the value of their archived content. The advertising value of older content is often considered minimal, with external advertising networks gaining the benefit of hosting advertising on this content instead of the newspaper itself. Fortunately, resurrecting old stories is a great way to draw users into the site which they can then start exploring and subsequently venture to pages with higher advertising value.
So, old news really is good news for news organisations; it would seem that frictionless sharing is leading more and more people to glide effortlessly onto their sites.