In the past the news was relegated to a fairly strict timeslot. The broadcasters would only have a short amount of time to inform the public about the stories of the day. However, that all changed with the advent of the 24 hour news cycle. As the name suggests this is when a channel continues to provide coverage all day.
The main upside to this format is that people can tune in at any hour and be informed on current events. It has a fairly recent history. All news radio existed for a number of decades but the idea of 24/7 television news did not catch on until the mid 1990s. Today the format can be seen on informational websites as well. For example, Metro and numerous other publications update their info on a near constant basis.
The O.J. Simpson murder case was arguably the main catalyst for 24 hour news. When cable channels continued to broadcast updates on it there was an influx of viewers. This satisfied channel sponsors and the practice of all day news became a lucrative way for journalism outlets to generate revenue.