Tuesday, April 28, 2009
You should date your online content

You know what drives me crazy on magazine websites? (I could write a whole series, really.) Articles with no date, no way to tell when they were written or published or went online.

The logic seems to be that putting dates on content will make that content look… well, dated, a few months or years down the road. Instead, you can trick your readers into thinking everything on your site is up to date.

Or not. Because realistically, how many of us are going back and fixing details on undated material so that it looks current? And how many readers are really going to think that everything on the site is new?

My preference is to label everything: not only with a date published, but with a notation on whether it’s web-exclusive content or comes from a certain issue of the magazine.

By putting a date on content, you’re covering your back if the facts change and something turns from right to wrong. If I read an article that’s a year old and it’s missing some crucial new piece of information, I’ll cut the site some slack. If it has no date, how can I tell the difference between old content and badly researched content?

And by labelling repurposed articles as from a certain issue of the magazine, you’re telling new (perhaps online-only) readers about the depth of your product and the range of topics it covers. Who knows? That one article from last June could be the thing that persuades them to subscribe.

Do you date your site content? Why or why not?

- Kat Tancock
About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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