Do we need to question our obsession with content youth?

Unfortunately my writing has taken me away from here – my own blog – as I have poured my creative juices into a column on Engaging Times and various other guest articles. So, having taken a nine month hiatus, what better subject to tackle as I dust down my personal blogging mojo, than how we are seemingly obsessed with the age of the content?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but was reminded of it this morning when I read this tweet from my friend Robert Rose, sharing a presentation about content marketing that was barely two years old and yet he felt the need to apologize with the #oldiebutgoodie hash tag.

I wasn’t familiar with the this hashtag, the stream is a really eclectic collection of tweets covering all sorts of subjects and interests, however I combed through them to find tweets that were business orientated and, in this very rudimentary research, I found that the content that was considered “oldies” by their authors were as young as being published within the last 3 months!

Although, I admit I did also find content that was one, two or (GASP!) even three years old.

However, what I found was that the content being shared is not time sensitive, like the two year old presentation that Robert shared, it contains ideas that are as  fresh now (and especially fresh to anyone starting out in their research into the subject) as they were then, even in a fast evolving marketing discipline such as Content Marketing.

This is particularly evident when we consider the great scheme of over a hundred years of people sharing ideas about marketing. As my career has moved to content marketing I was recommended to read “Marketing Myopia” by Theodore Levitt, which is still wonderfully relevant today and was written over 50 years ago.

The issues with sharing “old” content starts with this – who wants to start a tweet with an apology “sorry this is old, but I like this”? I know, I’ve done it myself. You are then thinking – what does it says about you? You are late to something, you are not contemporary, you are not down with the cool kids.

Then there is the likelihood of someone engaging with that content, who is going to click on that link if you’ve already told them it’s old? You’ve added some friction in the sharing ecosystem, you are going to have to be pretty credible for someone to look beyond that.

I clicked on Robert’s link because I consider him very credible and assumed if he shared an old link, it must be still relevant. 

So it seems that effectively the date stamp on an online article or blog post could be just as important as it’s title, the subject or text in influencing whether someone will share your content.

Further damaging my campaign for an end to this obsession with content youth is that it’s widely accepted that the big beasts that serve as the gateway to almost all of the content we consume (the search engines) are wired to love content youth, the fresher the better.

When you hire that SEO ninja to check out your site, it’s probably bullet point number one on their recommendations slide. (if you don’t have a ninja and are interested in Google’s need for fresh content, check out this rather good post and video on the Webtrends blog).

No wonder we are all obsessed with content youth.

But… hang on… lets take a look at a random(ish) paragraph, from a random page from a random book on my home office bookshelf:

In other words selling has evolved from “what it has” to “what it does” to “what you’ll feel” to “who you are”. This shift has demonstrates that while features and benefits are still important to people, personal identity has become even more important.

This sounds like this has just jumped out of a contemporary content marketing publication or blog, but is actually from The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier. The revised edition I have was published in 2006 (the original published in 2005) and was probably my first marketing book when I started my slow evolution of coding technologist to becoming a marketer. I also discovered that this particular random(ish) quote from this random book is often quoted and there are plenty of young content that quotes it (for example this).

So it seems we view books differently, there is a reverence to ideas captured in print and if you’ve authored a book you are more credible than a blogger. You simply are.

So, ideas in books live long, so what is the life expectancy of our online content?

According to Nate Weiner, the CEO of Pocket, from an interview in Fast Company:

Though the flurry of saving to Pocket lasted about a week for the story, the long tail on people reading it and sharing it was a span of 37 days.

According to Klout, analyzing their own statistics they’ve discovered that the life of a tweet varies depending on your Klout score, from 25 minutes to 5 hours – in their half life of a tweet infographic.

So, credibility plays a big role in the life expectancy of your content, whether you’ve written a book or Klout considers you credible,  your ideas will live longer.

What’s my point?

Firstly, wouldn’t it be a shame if we viewed books and our recommendation of books the same way as social content, no one would have recommended the rather wonderful Marketing Myopia to me and people wouldn’t be quoting Neumeier (or a host of other authors) today. Which is odd, that somehow, in this digitally disrupted world – a book trumps a blog.

But for online content, my short lived campaign against our obsession with young content is doomed.  The production of fresh content is absolutely a core tenet of our content marketing strategies, search engines love it and people will share it.

Hmmm.. maybe it’s time to remove the dates from my blog posts and see if that makes them more shareable…?


Bubblegum image by Martijn de Valk  shared under create commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 license.

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