Does content expire?

Like radio waves all content flows into a vacuum, eventually.

Like those radio and TV signals that escape earth's atmosphere and float away into space, but continue to exist many light years away, so does content (digital). That's good news for content providers, marketers and clients, right?

All content, be it blog posts, social media messages, videos, news reports, especially news reports, has a shelf life. If not “consumed” within a certain period, it loses its value. When that happens, it goes off the hypothetical shelf. But does it expire? I don't think so.

I am trying to make a distinction here between shelf life and expiry date. Yes, content does not deteriorate ever. Unlike the elements in the periodic table it may not have a half-life, but it loses relevance vis-à-vis a target audience at a certain point in its lifecycle. So time does play a very important role.

Here I would like to draw the attention of subscribers to this graphic that keeps surfacing online ever so often. It depicts “how long” a piece of content “lasts”. I found it once again on Twitter this week, thanks to my follower Jonathan Aufray, CEO of Growth Hackers.

So a blog lasts for 2 years while a tweet's shelf life is 18 minutes.

I am not too crazy about the graphic. For one, it's not very clear about what's being mapped or measured here. Is it relevancy? If so, where? On social media? Or does it refer to audience attention? The other thing is the methodology used to conclude has not been explained, at least wherever I've come across it. How scientific are the conclusions?

But, it's a good attempt and a start. It does drive home the point that every piece of content has its own shelf life.

What I can say with a measure of confidence is that content shelf life today is far less than that of the ‘pre-Internet’ days.

At last count, there were 1.6 billion sites, not to mention the 70+ competing social media networks and zillions of posts/status updates, OTT movies, sitcoms beamed by TV channels, email flyers landing in your Inbox, etc. Consumers’ interest is divided between all of these. So down goes the shelf life.

Not many know this but those radio signals so far out there in space - they get so diffused, so weak it seems that the chances of an alien “catching” them become very low. The signals carrying a program dissipate, and aliens (target audience) would really need very powerful sensors to pick them up. It is the same with content.

With the ebb of time, your content, too, starts to fade. Till it reaches a point where it gets diffused. So you see, there's no expiry date as such, but catching such far-off content signals is next to impossible.

Now I come to the part of the newsletter where I talk of content repurposing.

Yes, like in the real world where you refurbish your house or car, you must do the same with content. Repurpose it. I am not using the word rehash here because both have a different meaning in the context of the re-use of old content.

Some content just cannot be repurposed or worked upon. News stories fall in that category, although they, too, can be followed up.

Most content, though can be updated and put back into an orbit that matches the trajectory of its consumers.

Repurposing can be a drudge, even messy, too, I admit. But it is a clever and a cost-effective way of maximizing your content.

Take the post you wrote two years ago on the use of bicycles to stay fit. You could dig it out and update it, bringing in the element of the rising popularity of e-scooters today. Or that video you made a year ago where you demonstrated how to become a stand up comedian. Surely you need to update that? The possibilities are endless.

So, yes, content has a shelf life, but no expiry date.

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Image by TheUjulala from Pixabay 
Image Credit: Twitter