Is “fresh content” a myth?

n the past I often had the requirement, that content must be absolute up to date when it’s delivered to the enduser. It always has to reflect the approved status on the servers, and it must not be outdated. When new content is pushed to the publish instances it has be picked up immediately and every response should return this update content now.
That’s sometimes (and only sometimes) a valid requirement, but the implementation is something you can hardly control.

For example: When your editor presses the “publish” (or “activate”) button in AEM, it’s starting an internal process, which is taking care of packing the content and delivering it to the publish instances, where the content is unpacked. And then you need to invalidate any fronted cache (dispatcher cache) sitting in front of the publish instance.
That’s infrastructure you can control, and with proper setup and monitoring you can achieve a reliable delay of a few seconds between pressing the button and the new content being delivered out of your web servers.

And then comes the internet. Huge caching layers (Content delivery networks) are absorbing lots of requests to reduce internet traffic. Company proxies caching favorite sites of its users to save money. You will find caches all over the place, to reduce costs and improve the speed. Sometimes for the cost of delivering outdated content. And not to forget the browser, which also tries to reduce page loading time by eliminating requests and leveraging a cache on local disk.

They do it for a single reason: You are normally more frustrated by a slow page than by reading a version of the news page, which doesn’t show the very most recent version published 1 second ago (and of course you don’t know that this page was just updated …)

Caching is a tool you should always use to provide a good experience. And in many times the experience is better if you deliver a fast, nearly up-to-date site (with news being 30 seconds old) than a slow site, showing also the breaking news which happened 1 second ago. 
If this delay is reasonable small (in many cases 5 minutes is perfect), noone will ever mention it (besides the editor who pressed the button), but you can improve your caching and the experience of the enduser.