Why you should date your online content

April 28, 2009

You know what drives me crazy on magazine websites? (I could write a whole series, really.) Articles with no date, no way to tell when they were written or published or went online.

The logic seems to be that putting dates on content will make that content look… well, dated, a few months or years down the road. Instead, you can trick your readers into thinking everything on your site is up to date.

Or not. Because realistically, how many of us are going back and fixing details on undated material so that it looks current? And how many readers are really going to think that everything on the site is new?

My preference is to label everything: not only with a date published, but with a notation on whether it’s web-exclusive content or comes from a certain issue of the magazine.

By putting a date on content, you’re covering your back if the facts change and something turns from right to wrong. If I read an article that’s a year old and it’s missing some crucial new piece of information, I’ll cut the site some slack. If it has no date, how can I tell the difference between old content and badly researched content?

And by labelling repurposed articles as from a certain issue of the magazine, you’re telling new (perhaps online-only) readers about the depth of your product and the range of topics it covers. Who knows? That one article from last June could be the thing that persuades them to subscribe.

Do you date your site content? Why or why not?


3 Responses to “Why you should date your online content”

  1. Kat, I laughed openly when I read your post with “Good God, you are so right!” If google really wants to make their site the ONLY go to place for searches, they would add the ability to filter by date that the site was updated.
    It does have a date feature but somehow it’s either being tricked or simply doesn’t work.

    That would save us all a ton of wasted time.


  2. This brings up a good, common-sense point that I’ve been grappling with (having just asked our web guy to cut the dates) as we reimagine our website. Thanks for this. You swayed me toward reason. – Craille Maguire Gillies, Editor, UnlimitedMagazine.com

  3. We have a lot of evergreen content on our website that gets pulled forward with the seasons (opening up, closing, boating, winter cottaging, etc.) and every article that comes from print does have a link back to the original issue it appeared in.

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