How to handle seasonal content

August 5, 2009

When you put out a magazine, you know when people will be reading it. And if they read it later than that, they know that they’re reading something that was targeted at a certain time frame. So not only can you orient an issue to the calendar, but it’s expected.

Online, on the other hand, there’s a bit of a conundrum. While your home page and newsletters are timely, many readers will come across articles weeks, months or even years after they were written. It’s important to keep this in mind both when editing individual articles and when creating content lineups. For the former, it’s a good idea to date content and to edit out any time references that aren’t necessary to the story. For the latter, it’s much more worth your time and money to focus resources on content that will stand the test of time.

Some tips on handling seasonal content:

• At the micro level, edit out anything that will later become confusing. Change “last year” to “in 2008”, “recently” to “in early 2009”. Cut people’s ages, especially if your system doesn’t specify the date of publication.

• If the article you’re repurposing, editing or assigning is a general topic with a seasonal twist, cut the seasonal references. Tips on surviving “holiday stress” can easily be reworked as tips on surviving “stress” – and you can still specify the holiday reference in links referring to the piece.

• Be careful with images. An evergreen story with a fall-themed image will look very dated the rest of the year, even if the content isn’t.

• Create packages of seasonal and seasonally relevant content. They will stay up year after year and you can add to the collection, but the main piece will continue to be indexed by search engines.

• Don’t pretend that you’ll go back and edit seasonal references out later. Chances are, you won’t have the time. And if you really think you will, then create a database of what needs to be edited and when.

• Timely or newsworthy content may seem to have a short life span, but it can often be reworked into packages as well. For instance, if you had a collection of old Michael Jackson articles, it would have been worth your while after his death to repackage them as “Michael Jackson: a history”. Same goes for news – create timelines that readers will be able to use as valuable history refreshers.

What tips did I miss?


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