Reunion: Revisiting Old Ground

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One of the more fruitful and fulfilling practices in blogging is revisiting older material and taking a new look at it. While this is sometimes given the derogatory-intending title of “recycling,” it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. Older posts can still be interesting, and can provide important context for newer material. Similarly, your current work can readily update older content with new perspectives and fresh insights.

That said, there is some merit in the argument that this is simply intellectual laziness and avoiding producing good, new content. Avoiding this trap is something of an art form. So let’s discuss some of the do and don’t mechanics of resurrecting old posts and breathing new life into them.

The simplest means of revisiting an old post is to simply put it up once again. The problem here should be obvious: People come to a blog for updated content and new thoughts. The older posts are still there, ready for an audience to come to and read.

But sometimes you genuinely do want to have someone read an older post. How do you make this work without it looking lazy?

Post-Roll

A blog-roll is a rotating display of websites, typically blogs, that your blog subscribes to. It isn’t difficult to set up a similarly rotating display of old posts that updates once a day, twice a week, or any other time you wish. It can be configured to update randomly or can display blog posts you specifically choose. This way, your older content is continually put up for your readers to access without requiring them to slog into the archives to find out when you published a particular article.

Rewrite

The opportunities to perform rewrites of old material are certainly out there, if you know where to look. These work best with relatively timeless yet evolving topics. One such post might cover getting the most out of cell phones. An article on cell phones written ten years ago will certainly need updating, since the smart phone wasn’t even out back then. On the other hand, even if it was written only three years back, the market has evolved from one or two smart phones to a host of options. A rewrite is still in order.

The major themes of the older article may still be present, and only require a fresh interpretation in one or two specific areas (the second example), or may require a whole new way of looking at things (the ten-year lag option!). Either way, it covers a topic your readers are distantly familiar with, but brings new interest to it.

Don’t Do it Too Often

There is real bite to the criticism that reposting old content is somewhat lazy. A blog is very much in the vein of a newspaper, which is partly why it is lumped under the category of online journalism. People come to a blog for timely updates and new content. Even how-to and project blog readers expect different projects to go up during the regular updates, not simply rehashes of old ones.

The question of “how often is too often?” is still a bit tricky, however. A good rule of thumb to follow is to go by theme.

Some Sample Themes

Holidays: If your blog topic is affected by seasonal concerns, then the seasons are a good time to revisit old material for updating or reminiscing.
Political Changes: Perhaps you have a social or political commentary blog, and a prediction you made did (or didn’t!) pan out the way you expected. This is a great time to revisit your claim, and go into why it did or didn’t work. This kind of rewrite is usually more about writing a new article and linking to or quoting your old posts for clarity, but it still falls under revisiting older content.

Total Change of Perspective: Maybe the market, or your interpretation of it, has done a 180. Perhaps you felt a particular way about marketing during the dial-up era of the web, but now that broadband is king you’ve changed your tune entirely. Whatever the reason, changing your mind is a great time to revisit an old post and provide some new insight into your thinking.

Do it Small

Sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, an entire revisit-rewrite isn’t the only way to do things. In frequently updating blogs, particularly those following a journalistic approach to content, a certain issue might develop over several days or weeks. As you post new thoughts on the issue, link back to the earlier posts and refer to the content and how your perceptions on it are growing.

Do a Retrospective

This is tied into the previous idea. Eventually, most issues will play out to a logical and complete conclusion. This may be a satisfying end culminating in a clear decision, or simply a tottering off as interest wanes and moves on to the next trend. Either way, pull together the links to your older posts on the topic and provide a summation and analysis of the material covered.

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