Blogger/author Jami Gold wrote a great post about writers plagiarizing themselves several months back. She said something that has stuck with me ever since:
Many of us who blog will occasionally rerun blog posts, sometimes with updates and sometimes without. If we don’t acknowledge that we’re re-posting material, are we misleading our readers by implying the post is new and original? What about when we post material we’d previously submitted for a guest post?I post old posts. Monday's article on theme is a perfect example. I've also posted things I've done for other blogs (those I always credit and link back to the original post) Early on in the blog's life, I'd title reruns "Golden Oldies," but I stopped when tweeting got popular because long titles get truncated and all those extra words meant the actual title was getting lost. (My favorite example of this is my recent post on characters screwing up their decisions. I saw one tweet where it was accidentally shorted to "When Your Characters Screw" and the tiny url. Maybe that's why that post got a lot of hits?)
I've always had mixed feelings about reruns. I've read old posts on other blogs before and thought "Hey, this is a rerun." I've also thought "Oh cool, I loved this post." If the blogger is only running old stuff and it's few and far between, it bugs me. The occasional rerun doesn't. I know there are days when life gets crazy and you just don't get the time to blog like you wanted. The choice is no post or an old post. I'd rather an old post than leave my readers hanging. (Though with RSS feeds and subscriptions, is this really a problem anymore? Are readers checking blogs to see if there are new posts or just waiting until new posts show up in their email or reader?)
I have over 1,000 articles on this site now. Most of them are just as valid and helpful today as they were when I wrote them (like the theme post). When I redesigned the site, I did so with the goal of creating a useful archive of articles for writers when they got stuck.
To me, pulling something from the 2010 shelf and dusting it off for a new crop of readers makes sense. If I already have a great post on a topic, why write a new one? I don't want someone to look up everything on "theme" and find the same advice written in four different ways.
Unless the post says everything it needs to (again, like the theme post) I update it when I repost. Early posts of mine are often sparser because I hadn't quite found my stride and style for the blog. Those get new information and even someone who's read it before will find new tips. These are always my first choice posts when I need to do a rerun.
My Guidelines for Rerunning an Old Post
1. The older the better
I like to pull from the first two years of the blog. I had very few readers then compared to now (all of 2009 was less that a single month today) so odds are those posts weren't seen by many people anyway.
2. Update where possible
I add new ideas, new tips, new bullet points or questions. Edit out stuff that doesn't matter. Unless the posts is solid and fits into the current blog style, I revise it.
3. Pick posts with as few comments as possible
I figure if only two people commented, the post had few views. It's also a decent sign that it's a good topic to rework or add to if it didn't spark some conversation.
4. Posts that answer reader questions
Folks ask me questions, and when I know there's an older post that answers it, I'll often rerun it. These depend on how long ago the post ran and if I think it'll be helpful to more than just the commenter. If it's a recent post, I'll just link to it when I reply to the comment.
And the exception to the rules...
5. Very popular posts that don't make the most popular list
I have posts from several years ago that are some of my highest-viewed posts on the site. Yet due to weird Blogger algorithms, they aren't in my Most Popular Posts list. So from time to time I pull those out and see if they make the list (they often do). These are posts I know folks like and find helpful, and they're exactly the kinds of posts I want readers finding.
These days, I regularly tweet old posts, so anything that gets re-done in any way gets my byline added. That way, I know immediately if I've used it recently. Something I tweeted I won't re-post. (Barring those first few months when I didn't do this and forgot what I'd used. Learned that lesson quick!)
I don't want the blog to be rerun city, but I do want to utilize it the best I can. It was created to be used. To me, that means using the whole of it, not just the recently written.
I have some questions for you:
1. How do you feel about rerunning old posts?
2. Do you want to know if it's a rerun?
3. Should it have an "originally published on X" date? And if so, where? Top or bottom?