“Many readers found this story interesting” is a standard phrase you will see often in the German regime press Die Zeit when the editors decided to recycle an older blog post or article.
Reposting older articles is more common than you might think with the legacy media. In fact, they do it all the time. In a fierce competition for clicks, major publications such as The Economist, The New York Times, or Die Zeit simply re-package their stories and “sell them” to their readers again for yet another round of cheap clicks.
It costs almost nothing to recycle old articles and we see more of it in the Internet age, yet what is the exact motivation behind this phenomenon?
Often, the recycled articles are not even the very good ones, as in the-best-of-series or the highlights-of-the-year. They are increasingly also the low-performing ones as well. How can this be explained?
Evidently, it has something to do with algorithms and the Internet at large. Imagine an editorial made a bad judgement and released a resourceful post on the wrong time of the day. Just like the premier of a blockbuster movie, the premier of key articles matters. If the timing is not correct, even the best-written articles will find no readers.
In the Internet age, however, editors are now much more flexible. They can decide to re-issue an article, over and over again if they have to. A magazine for example may consider the re-publishing on an important text once its topic became relevant again; what better moment to remind everyone that our magazine told you so twenty years ago that the earth is warming up?!
It is not just the vanity or economic calculation of the publishers to blame for the recycled stuff. The Internet search engine Google is a major part of the phenomenon. Google will often index an article for just a few seconds on that very day, and, after that, will remove the link altogether from Search. It means that the window for attracting new readers (we call that organic growth) is indefinitely small.
We see this in social media as well, where companies and individuals either pay an amount of money to have heir posts “featured” for longer, or they re-post (in Twitter: retweet) their text tomorrow again, and again the day after tomorrow if need be.
All publishers, whether they are large companies or bloggers, will have to recycle some of their older content eventually, and then frequently, in order to stay visible and appear relevant in a world where they compete with millions of other content creators every second of the Internet.