There’s an easy shortcut to success as an online publisher. But it comes at a cost to both the publication and its readers.
Follow any online publication for some time and you’ll start noticing it. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see articles you’ve read before, repackaged and resurfaced again and again. It’s no dirty trick – every publication does it, and the smart ones do it well.
Simply write an evergreen article and continue re-publishing and promoting it every six months, and a new audience will find it useful. Everything is buried so quickly online, it only makes sense to continue bringing it back to the top of the feed again for those who missed it before.
You could spend three years creating, and then another three years just republishing. And in theory, it should work. You reach new readers and save time. It’s the economical choice.
The question is: What does it mean for you and your readers?
As a writer and publisher myself, it’s a dismal prospect. I use this blog as a vehicle to promote my products and my work, but I started this blog because I love to write. Optimizing and repackaging is not writing. If anything, it’s marketing. And while it’s useful for my bottom line, it’s not satisfying as a creator and it’s nothing I can be proud of. The publishing machine gives me no incentive to continue putting new ideas and work into the world. I’m just recycling.
As a new reader, I might not notice anything at first. If I’ve never seen the article before, I don’t care when it was written (assuming it’s an evergreen topic). But as a loyal reader, I will quickly see through the charade. After yet another tweet promoting the same article in a slightly different way, I will lose interest in the publication. You might have optimized the headline, you might have switched some things around or added new information, but I’ve read it before. It's a waste of my time.
The more we recycle our creations, the more watered down they get. We can only say the same thing so many times before we stop believing it ourselves. We can only phrase it so many different ways before it feels trite and cheap.
“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.” – Picasso
Does the online publishing machine decrease the quality of writing?
It’s one thing to take other’s ideas, mix them up and make them our own. It’s another thing to recycle our own work until it’s nothing but pulp.
If you’re motivated to create purely for business reasons, republishing is a handy tool. If you got into this because you love writing, the machine can result in a creative’s worst nightmare: feeling bored, lost and unfulfilled.