Why newspapers should balance stock and flow content online

Interactive, Journalism

In our second class about social media with Adam Tinworth as part of my course in Interactive Journalism at City University London, I thought I’d research stock and flow concepts to get a better understanding of how they work.

 First of all, what is stock and flow content?

The concept of stock and flow originated from economics. In 2010 Robin Sloan posted a blog post that brought this idea to journalism. As he explains in his blog post, “I feel like we all got really good at flow, really fast. But flow is ephemeral. Stock sticks around. Stock is capital. Stock is protein.”

Therefore stock content is durable. Examples of stock content include podcasts, videos, guides and research work. In comparison, flow content is a stream of daily and sub-daily updates. For instance, news articles, surveys, live blogs and social media updates.

One point that was brought up in our class is that it is important to remember that some content can be both stock and flow.

While flow content helps to keep newspapers or brands in the public eye, stock content drives steady and continuous traffic to websites over a long period of time. This is why it is really important not to remove good-quality archived content from a website. Good quality archived content can still drive views in if people are researching the topic, for instance.

Case study: Flow and Stock content on The Huffington Post

Looking at The Huffington Post’s website today I have been able to identify some elements that are examples of stock and flow content.

Flow content – Polls

Today The Huffington Post added this poll to their website linked to today’s news that the Global Chemical Weapons Watchdog were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I would argue that this is flow content because this poll is related to a current news story and will become irrelevant in a short period of time.

Poll flow content

Flow content – Photos of the day

Flow content

This is an obvious example of flow content as these photos are only relevant to today.

Stock content: videos

Stock contentThis is a video that appeared on the sidebar of The Huffington Post‘s website. This is stock content because it is not a news piece and has most likely been on the website for a long period of time. As it is a quirky and amusing video, it is likely to attract viewer’s attention and thus get numerous clicks. Consequently, this is a good example of how stock content can attract views on your website.

Therefore when creating websites and online communities it is important to deliver both stock and flow content to keep  readers engaged and to ensure that they keep visiting your blog. Perhaps this is something to keep in mind for my project in Online Journalism.

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