Study: Most News Articles Have Online Half-Life of 36 Hours

By: E&P Staff

A study by a team of statistical physicists in the U.S. and abroad have calculated the rate at which the number of people who read news stories on the web decays with time, and have found that most news becomes dated and unread after approximately a day and a half.

The report, “Fifteen Minutes of Fame: The Dynamics of Information Access on the Web” is a collaboration between Prof. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi of the University of Notre Dame and colleagues in Hungary. The study’s model shows that the structure of a typical news site is not unlike that of a biological cell, with a “skeleton” that stays stable while temporary “nodes” (stories) come and go.

“While fifteen minutes of fame is still an exaggeration in the online media, we find that access to most news items significantly decays after 36 hours of posting,” reads the report.

The 36-hour figure refers to a news document’s half-life; it corresponds to the period in which half of all visitors that eventually access it have visited. This figure is the average half-life, but individual half-lives vary, according to the study.

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