Make the Most of Your News Feed, Part 3: Old News

Posted on 9/17/2008 4:10:02 PM

(This is the third in a long-delayed series about using your news feed. While this installment was originally going to talk about the value of RSS, we’ve bumped that to part four. We’ll also be covering this topic at our next Web Maintainers’ Summit.)

Now that the new semester is under way, we’ve been getting many request from units (departments and offices) to delete old news items from their feeds.

We’ve been mostly turning down those requests, which has surprised many and really frustrated a few. After all—shouldn’t news be new?

They’re right. News should be new, and we want you to keep posting it. But there’s a lot of value in your old news posts, and that’s why we want you to keep them around.

What’s the value? For the answer, take a look at the Department of Geoscience’s news feed. (Go take a look—I’ll be here when you come back.)

Now that you’ve taken a look, imagine yourself as a potential Geoscience student. You might be thinking about applying to IUP, or an IUP student thinking of changing majors. On this one page—the News page—you can see that:

  1. Geoscience has several award-winning professors
  2. Geoscience regularly invites guest speakers from outside IUP
  3. Geoscience has an active Geoscience club
  4. Geoscience students do research and present at conferences

This page may do more than any other single page on the site to convince you to study Geoscience at IUP.

The best part is that creating this page didn’t take a whole lot of effort. Geoscience just posted what they were doing and what they had planned.

And that’s why we want you to post news and to keep those old posts around. They do so much to show potential students (and current students) what life is like at IUP—and without a whole lot of effort.

Also note that Geoscience hasn’t gone back to re-edit old news items to change them to the past tense—since every news item automatically includes the date it was created, there’s really no need.

Is No News Good News?

The next question people generally ask us is, “What if we don’t have any more news to post, and there’s something really old and out of date showing on our home page?”

Our first reply to that would be a question: Is there really nothing going on in your unit? Nothing coming up that people need to know about? Remember, these news posts aren’t press releases—a two-line news post is fine and can be very useful.

Of course, sometimes, there really isn’t any news. Perhaps your unit plays a support role at IUP, and no news really is good news. (“Lights, Heating Still On” would be a lousy news post.) You have a couple of options:

  1. You can change the number of news items that appear in “Recent News” by making changes to your configuration file. (You’ll find it at the top folder of your site. And do be careful—we’re not kidding when we say you can really screw up your site with this file.)

  2. You can remove “Recent News” from your home page entirely on the Metadata tab of your home page. (But don’t forget to put it back when and if you do have news to share.)

But these are the exceptions. Mostly, you’ll want to keep those old posts around.

Thanks for reading! And we hope to see you at our next Web Maintainers’ Summit.