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How repetition adds value

March 22, 2010

Source: Thomas Hawk's Flickr Page

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that certain topics pop up pretty regularly, whether I’m writing about them explicitly or not: Internet etiquette; the need for newsbrands to understand the Web; the value of a personal brand; etc. In some cases, I may even have multiple blog posts that are basically the exact same.

That’s all fine with me and in most cases, it’s intentional. Repetition is valuable because it contributes to the greater narrative that runs through and unifies all the content on a particular platform. Sometimes posts may seem sporadic—I’m writing about Google one day and Instapaper on another—but there’s a current, or a pulse, running through everything (in this case, these things are used to innovate and create, something I specifically emphasize in yet more posts).

This idea isn’t new. Newspaper columnists have been doing this kind of thing for years (though “objective” newspaper reporters have only half-heartedly embraced it, in my opinion). One of the things I miss the most about the P-I’s print edition is Robert Jamieson, a columnist who made Seattle’s scuzzy Belltown neighborhood a personal crusade of his. Jamieson got it: When a mugging happened in Belltown or when a(nother) drug bust went down, it wasn’t just a story to be posted online, digested and discarded—it was part of a greater patchwork of issues that formed a pattern, which contributed to the character of that neighborhood. It tied in to things Jamieson had written about in the days, weeks and months prior and those were big things that affected people’s lives on a daily basis.

So think about it: What are the greater themes running through your blog, your neighborhood, your beat? And what can you do to create better cohesion around those themes? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep track of what you post. If you’re not even sure what the themes are running through your work, this could help you find out.
  • Use analytics to see what your readers like. If you’ve got any kind of analytics tracking going on, you can probably see when you posted what and—better yet—how well it did. Once you see what people are responding to, you may find that what you think the greater themes are and what your readers think are two different things. If so, act accordingly.
  • Corral your most important content. If the big themes you’re hitting on are that important, give them their own space: group them by tag, category, add them to a unique tag in Delicious or Publish 2—anything you can do to collect all that stuff in one place.

Suggestions/examples of your own? Drop a comment.

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