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I have been going back through the content on this website as part of a site revamp. I conducted the content aspect of the site revamp while I created new content, did work and general life stuff. So it took a while as the content went as far back as March 2004.
I ended up paring the number of blog posts down from almost six thousand posts to just under eighteen hundred. I deleted a few posts because in retrospect I didn’t have much to say.
But the bulk of the posts that I deleted was where I was consolidating posts that focused on curating content from around the web, similar to this one.
The primary reason why I was consolidating these posts together was link rot. Links that went out to dead sites and the pages hadn’t managed to be indexed in the Wayback Machine.
So what did I learn from this content site revamp process?
While the maxim that ‘everything stays somewhere online forever’ is useful life advice, it doesn’t accurately reflect the ephemeral nature of online content. Even many of the largest media companies seem to prune their older content on a regular basis. The exceptions to this seem to be the FT and the New York Times.
Companies are usually really bad at handling their redirects from the now dead pages of old content. With zero consideration being given to context. Of course, memes and revenge porn tend not to be as ephemeral unfortunately.
2014 seems to have been a cataclysmic year for personal website content. Prior this year there were all kinds of interesting professional and corporate blogs being run. But in 2014, things seem to have changed dramatically. This seems to have occurred across sectors and specialisms. Companies seem to have given up on their content strategies.
My current working hypothesis is that part of this was probably due to the rise of social media and a secondary aspect of this must have been the declining returns of on network and off network search engine optimisation. I also think that at least some personal bloggers grew out of their sites. They probably found that their interests had changed, or no longer had time to write. I managed to avoid that fate for a number of reasons:
- Writing helped me work out ideas
- I don’t think that I am a good writer, but writing became a habit, one that was so engrained it survived when I moved to live in Hong Kong and back again
- I deliberately never put this blog in a box, in terms of what I wanted to write about beyond what caught my interest. Part of this came down to my belief in the connected post-modern nature of the world. Previously I have talked about how understanding the dynamics of social media can be traced back to the rituals and structures of ancient Rome. People like Jed Hallam had since articulated this idea much better in his discussions about marketing existing inside culture and acting on culture
- Between 2003 and 2012, there seemed to be more events and conferences that I got to go to during and after work that provided inspiration for content. This seems to have tailed off somewhat now
- I thought the process of curation was as important as the process of creation. I never had to create content completely in a vacuum. Using social bookmarking tools and newsreader services helped enormously in this process.
- The pattern of my writing has evolved. I publish less frequently, but tend to do longer posts now. At one stage I was developing two posts a day for this site, content for a blog on PR Week that was regularly featured in their print edition, the corporate blog of the agency that I worked for at the time and contributing a few posts to Econsultancy on marketing related issues. I also provided some content to political site Left Foot Forward at the behest of a policy wonk colleague of mine, this content focused on the intersection of technology, media and regulation. My writing had been driving a good deal of my career progression from 2005 through to 2014
Finally, I think that there has been a decline in the spirit of generosity in the exchange of ideas. I am not sure if this is an increase in ‘meaness’ – though more and more content is now behind a paywall, or a larger decline in ideas.
I don’t think that Medium and LinkedIn have managed to plug the gap on brands and consumers looking to publish quality long form content for various reasons. Secondly, email newsletters while looking like the new blogs are likely to be equally ephemeral and may be a step backward in time; though I am still subscribed to listservs that I originally looked at in college.
As I write this, even Facebook looks as if it has finally started on its downward slope to irrelevance , where it will eventually join former online titans like Geocities, Friendster, MySpace and Bebo. Facebook content is already largely hidden from the open web behinds its wall garden. The way things are going, It is likely to disappear completely in the next decade or so.
The content site revamp brought home to me, the importance of having your own personal website, to have control over your content. Looking back strengthened my belief in the advice that I gave Omincom’s David Gallagher four years ago
Why have a website as part of your personal online brand?
LinkedIn and Facebook don’t have the same agenda as you. Your content becomes a hostage to their business whimsPersonal online brand (January 23, 2018)
It is hard for users to discover your content, Facebook and Google make it so
Even on Medium you no longer really own your content. It can’t be easily exported like content on the Blogger platform
Even in the world of Facebook, Google is still a reputation engine
The content process that I went through on the site revamp taught me that I need to make better notes about the significance of a particular piece of content because years later I won’t have any idea why I’d saved it. I have been getting better at this over years, but I still need to do better.