Matthew Arnold famously said that “journalism is literature in a hurry” and in the highly competitive age of digital journalism, his words have never rung truer. In a bid to attract audience attention, writers are under more pressure than ever to produce diverse and far-reaching content. Despite the high demand to report on the most up-to-date and unusual stories, one aspect of this saturated platform might help slow down the fast-moving world of online journalism:
Evergreen content. As the name suggests, evergreen content is work that stays relevant long after it’s been written. Although the concept is nothing new, the value of reporting on long-standing issues has increased in line with the intensifying rivalry of the modern web. This is because evergreen content maximises viewing potential and prevents work from being swallowed up in the web’s black hole of yesterday’s stories.
Although some topics are more suited to the evergreen life than others (for example, a book review is generally going to stay relevant longer than an article about today’s weather), writers can take simple steps to significantly extend the shelf-life of many articles:
It’s relatively easy to turn an article or blog evergreen, and minimal maintenance is required to substantially increase the shelf-life of favourite works. Refreshing the timestamp, updating links and optimising key words can be enough to secure enduring readership.
Speaking about the benefits of ‘refreshing the evergreen’, Vox’s article of the same name discusses the value of upcycling old content. In the article, author Yglesias explains that every so often ‘some new development causes an issue to get attention or seem more relevant, but once you start paying attention you see that you’re just looking at one aspect of a longstanding issue — one you’ve written about extensively before’. By placing time-sensitive work amongst related evergreen content, readers get the benefit of experiencing seemingly one-off stories as new takes on ‘longstanding patterns, structures, or systems.’
Time-sensitive content can also benefit from being refreshed once in a while. Although it’s impossible to make yesterday’s news stories current again, linking them to evergreen pieces can stop important and ‘genuinely interesting’ stories from becoming obsolete.
As Yglesias points out, the internet tends to deliver contentin ‘miscellaneous streams’, breaking down ‘strict chronology’ and making our understanding of what’s going on around us disjointed and patchy. By upcycling and reposting old content, evergreen writers help tidy up how readers receive information and build collections of related content that are far more informative than stand-alone articles.
Whilst the evergreen approach will never apply to certain types of content, it can be used to situate time-sensitive texts in the context of evergreen work. Since becoming part of a larger issue gives permanence and depth of meaning to content that would otherwise be forgotten in a matter of hours, even the most perishable stories can profit from the knock-on effect of being placed next to related websites, blogs and articles. Because of this, readers and writers alike benefit from this more holistic, evergreen approach.