Timing Is Everything in a News Cycle

What Is the News Cycle, and How Does It Work?

News Cycle
Getty Images / Monty Rakusen

When it comes to promoting your event, whether it's a press conference to launch a new product or a benefit concert, timing is everything. Publicizing the perfect event or product at the wrong time is useless. On the other hand, a negative story at just the right time in the news cycle will most likely get picked up by the media.

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

There are different kinds of news vehicles including newspapers, blogs, TV stations, and radio stations.

Let's take a look at the different kinds of media outlets because they all operate on completely different news cycles.

Newspapers

Newspapers, whether national or local in nature, are printed once a day, typically at night. Even though the majority of newspapers have digital versions, online coverage only applies to breaking news, usually of a negative nature such as a school shooting or flood. Traditionally, newspapers operate on a 24-hour news cycle.

Blogs

Because there are so many blogs out there, even though they are updated more often than print media, it's hard to make blanket statements about them. Most blogs are written by one person with a keyboard. They might post three times a day, or, once every month. In general, blogs cover evergreen topics with tips and other useful information.

TV Stations

TV news is there day and night, and not just in regards to the national 24-hour cable networks like CNN and MSNBC.

Local television stations always do a morning news show, a noon show, a 5 p.m. show, and a 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. show. Local TV news is the most prolific, and the easiest venue to receive news coverage.

Radio Stations

Radio was around before the advent of TV and is still going strong, in part because of "drive time," when commuters are stuck in their cars.

Radio will break a story any time of the day because they have 24 hours of content to fill, each and every day. Whether a radio station plays rock or handles local news, they all subscribe to the Associated Press which sends out stories 24/7.  

How and When to Break Your Story

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 a Friday, knowing that almost every reporter and editor has gone home. Even the biggest newspapers only have a skeleton crew working nights and weekends. While that's been taking place "inside the beltway" for years, the trick doesn't work so well today given the ability of news outlets to post breaking news digitally.

If you have good news to report, it's a bad idea to announce news (or pitch a guest column) after business hours. Reporters are scrambling to make a deadline and your voicemail or e-mail will be ignored. It's best to contact journalists mid-morning, once their regular staff meeting has ended, and they're ready to start their work day.

The more time-sensitive a story is, the more you should lean toward radio, TV, and blogs, which are engineered 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 bigger, more complex stories. Newspapers can pack a lot more information into the paper than the short sound bites of radio and TV, where a two-minute story is considered long.