Adrian Holovaty says “it’d be useful if news sites made stories’ importance more obvious”, comparing online news sites with newspapers. Online, “stories sit alone, in templated obscurity, with no hint of how much more or less newsworthy they are than every other story”. In print, the design conventions and page ordering communicate the significance. He recommends that online we assign importance values to each story, perhaps using a ranking number.
But in a printed newspaper, a story is only important in relation to the other stories around it: i.e. a decision is made entirely within the context of that day’s news for that day’s section. Furthermore, what some see as a problem for newspapers — that they are merely a snapshot in time — actually works in their favour: stories don’t have to be reassessed for significance in perpetuity: the judgement is only necessary in the context of a single day in history. This isn’t true online: you either have to cast your archive as something totally wedded to the time at which each item within it appeared (something to which most news sites are averse), or you have to constantly update the significance ranking of your archived stories. If you don’t do this you run the risk of appearing inconsistent in your treatment of a given subject — or worse, being embarrassed by leaving something as low-ranking that turns out to be huge.
(From Adrian Holovaty)