Timing is Everything in News Cycles

What Is The News Cycle, And How Does It Work?

News Cycle
Getty Images / Monty Rakusen

A perfect event or product at the wrong time is often useless. A bad event or product at just the right time in the news cycle often gets picked up and used anyway.

So what is the news cycle, and how does it work?

Newspapers, blogs, TV stations and radio all operate on completely different news cycles.

  • get printed once a day, typically at night. Even though many papers have blogs, they don't typically publish that often. Newspapers are essentially on a 24-hour news cycle.
  • are updated more often though there are so many blogs of so much variety that it's hard to make blanket statements about them. Most blogs are one person with a keyboard. They might post three times a day, or three times a month. Other blogs are for-profit and fully staffed. Even so, they aren't there all day and night.
  • TV news is there day and night, and not just the 24-hour cable stations like CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Local television stations do a morning news show, a noon show, a 5 p.m. show and a 10 or 11 p.m. show.
  • is the most prolific. They'll break a story any time of the day, and a radio news station -- not a rock station that sometimes reads Associated Press stories -- has to fill up 24 hours of content per day. That's why there are some pretty obscure talk shows from midnight to 5 a.m.

Working In Harmony With The News Cycle

The more time-sensitive a story is, the more you need to think about the news cycle and who to talk to first.

The oldest trick in the book is to release a bad story after 5 p.m. on Friday, knowing that almost every reporter and editor has gone home. Even the biggest newspapers only have a skeleton crew working nights and weekends.

That trick doesn't work so well today, with blogs, radio stations, and TV news becoming more important.

It's always a bad idea to announce news or pitch a guest column after business hours. Your phone call will go to voicemail, and your e-mail will get thrown into a slush pile. When reporters and editors get to work in the morning, they've got to plow through all the e-mails that showed up overnight. The delete key gets a workout.

Send important things in the middle of the morning or middle of the day, to avoid being in the middle of the garbage pile.

The more time-sensitive a story is, the more you should lean toward radio, TV and blogs, which are designed to break news faster than newspapers.

On the other hand, the more complex and important a story is, the more you should lean toward newspapers because they specialize in the tougher stories and can pack a lot more information in the paper than the short sound bites of radio and images of TV, where a two-minute story is considered long.