Has this happened to you? Something big happens in your community and you furiously tap out a breaking news update. Because we live in the digital age, you would like to disseminate this big news immediately. Because you have used the Town News system you have refreshed again and again, waiting for your breaking news to break.
No more. I’m very happy to report that changes to the way the company caches stories mean that our Web updates should appear within a minute – if you do it the right way.
Like most networks, Town News stores its content in a cache so that it is more quickly available to users. Most people probably don’t know that when they call up your newspaper website, they are really getting a version that was stored minutes ago. By producing the recently cached material instead of live stuff on the original server, networks are able to run more efficiently and with less traffic to slow them down.
As a result, it has sometimes taken five or 10 minutes for our updates to appear on our site. That can feel like an eternity in a breaking news situation.
Town News says it has addressed this issue with a software update. But
you have to take full advantage, you have to take care to assure that your breaking news breaks fast.
Here’s how: …
Cut and paste your story into an new asset, flag it “breaking” and make sure you have a block in place that is looking for those flags. Now, calm down, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Again and with feeling, just write your story as you normally would and flag it “breaking.” You should know how to do that; if you don’t, call me. Then go to the design side and look for a block with query rules that include breaking flags. I said calm down! It’s not that difficult. Go to Design > Blocks and double click on the first block you see on the left there, the one called, “Breaking News Fader | Flag Breaking.” and add that to your page in a prominent location. (Heck, it may be there already if you are in the habit of posting breaking news.) That’s it.
Lastly, you can access the URL for your new breaking news story even before it appears.
In Blox, look for “view site” at the bottom right of the browser screen. Pull it down and look at “view live site.” You can open those stories, including those that haven’t yet posted, and share those URLs on Twitter and Facebook or even in emails to sources. Who knew? Click on your asset. See the pulldown menu that says, “View” at the bottom right? Click “Live View” and you can use that URL to post to Twitter or Facebook or even to email out to folks.
This is very good news from Town News and it should even get better. In an email to me this week, Town News Chief Technology Officer Brad Ward said the company plans to add that cache-busting technology to “top story” and “urgent” blocks as soon as its sure the change isn’t causing some unforeseen havoc.
As an editor, there is no greater frustration that a technical impediment to sharing breaking news and I was very glad to hear this week of this vital improvement.