When it comes to content, as radio broadcasters, we tend to think in terms of current events. When we prep our radio shows, we scan the headlines and prep sheets looking for topical nuggets to use in our breaks: Who was on the late nights shows last night, what concerts are coming to town, which celebrity said something stupid yesterday, etc. This is the beauty of real-time, in the moment content. It's a perfect match for our airwaves because it is fleeting: we say our break, it goes out into the ether, and then it disappears.
By contrast, content can live on the internet for a long time. You may discover a great piece of content weeks, months, or even years after it was first created. For example, Marc Maron, the comedian behind the WTF podcast, has conducted interviews with celebrities like Robin Williams, Paul McCartney, and Barack Obama that are still fascinating to listen to long after they were originally recorded. This allows him to use his content build an audience over a much longer period of time.
Topical content usually gets its maximum exposure as soon as it's published and then trails off. Evergreen content, on the other hand, can see a slow build over time, peaking much later. A big player in this process is search engines like Google, which can take time to surface content, but once they do, they will often drive traffic to it day in and day out…for years.
For example, this blogpost written by morning show personality Sheri Lynch, is still our most visited post of all time, three years after it was originally written! That's because the topic has a long shelf life. It's an evergreen topic – morning show bits that get the phones ringing – that shows up prominently in search.
Generating this type of long-lasting content requires a different mindset for those of us used to ripping material from the headlines or prep sheets for our radio shows. Instead of looking for topics anchored to a particular time, we have to remove all references that will date it. For example, if you interview Lizzo on your radio show, you'll want to be sure to talk about her concert happening in town this weekend. But to make the content evergreen for the web, you might want to omit that piece of the conversation.
There is, however, a way to make evergreen content topical. Doing so requires deciding which language to use on different media. Here are two examples:
1. The Death of a Musical Artist
In 2016, we saw the death of a number of rock stars – core artists for radio stations. They included Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Glen Frey of The Eagles, and David Bowie. In response to this series of passings, I wrote this blogpost about what radio stations should do online in response to the death of a major artist.
Sadly, we've continued to see a number of deaths since then, making this blogpost continually relevant. Fortunately, I wrote it so the content wouldn't quickly become outdated. Aside from the first sentence, there's nothing tying it to a specific date, enabling me to reshare it later without the post losing its pertinence.
To reshare it and tie it into current events, I don't change the article itself; instead, I reference current events in the social media post or email linking to the article. For example, when Neil Peart of Rush passed away recently, I reposted the article on social media, referencing his death.
In fact, I've reshared this article a number of times since it was written, with references to Chris Cornell, Prince, Aretha Franklin, and others. By keeping dated references out of the blogpost, but using them in social media – or, if I chose to email a link to the article, in the body of that email — I can both get extra life out of the evergreen content, while also riding the wave of current events.
2. Traumatic Brain Injuries
Another example comes from a wonderful non-profit organization we're honored to work with – Home Base. It's a Boston-based clinic dedicated to caring for veterans that suffer from a variety of issues, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). When 50 service members suffered TBIs in the recent Iranian attack on an American base in Iraq, President Trump dismissed these injuries as “headaches.”
The team at Home Base know this injury is far more serious, and wanted to use the news story as a teachable moment. Within days, they assembled experts on the subject, including Dr. Ross Zafonte, Brigadier General (USA ret.) Jack Hammond, and Home Base COO Michael Allard, to shed light on the subject of TBIs. They videotaped their discussion, repurposed the audio as a podcast episode, and pulled key quotes to create this blogpost.
Of course, this discussion about the effects of traumatic brain injuries will have a long shelf life; people will continue to suffer from this injury for decades. So the blogpost was written without emphasis on the events that thrust this subject into the limelight right now. Instead, the social media posts and email blast will reference the current discussion, while the video and blogpost remain evergreen.
By doing this, Home Base has ensured this content will maintain its relevance. If, for example, during the upcoming football season, traumatic brain injuries become a hot topic in the news again, the organization will be able to reshare this content, adjusting their social media posts to reflect new events and news stories.
Smart planning can enable you to get more life out of your content. Of course, these concepts don't just apply to serious content like deaths and brain injuries. For example, the Grammys happen every year. If you wrote a blogpost titled, “A Guide to This Year's Grammys,” it will have only been relevant in 2020. On the other hand, if you had written, “Ten of the Biggest Upsets in Grammy History,” and used your social media posts to reference the this year's nominees, you would be able to re-use the same piece next year.
The same is true with the Superbowl, or the next big Marvel movie, or anything else that might interest your audience. Be smart about how you approach the shelf-life of your content, and you can accomplish more with less work.
Radio has traditionally been focused on real time. And sadly, some great content is aired once – and then it's gone forever. The web has provided the tools for broadcasters to think evergreen, thus getting much more mileage for your efforts.