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Paul Jarvis

Greatest hits

When I was a teenager I was super into music, but I hated greatest hits albums with a passion. As a self-proclaimed music snob, greatest hits compilations were one step above Christmas albums.

Honestly, if you ask anyone what their favourite album is, who’s going to say “The Greatest Hits of…”?

I always thought greatest hits albums were just a cheap money grab from bands (or their labels) that required almost no work on their part –simply repackage existing material!

Interestingly, my thoughts on this have nevertheless flipped over the last few years, not just in terms of music, but in terms of content in general. Maybe it’s because my job now revolves around content creation (not songs in my case anymore, but articles and books).

So why’d my view go from “ew, no!” to “um, totally!”?

Well, content creators are pressured to constantly churn out new content as if it’s the most important part of our jobs. YouTubers and social media influencers are melting down about the burnout and stress they’re feeling trying to keep up with creating new content as quickly as possible. After all, new content is what gets shared more, tickles search engine algorithms in all the right ways, and consequently seems to rise to the top of people’s attention.

The problem is, every time we create something new, we push everything we’ve previously created down a little further from people’s attention.

Not only is it stressful. It’s unreasonable to believe we’re only as good as the next thing we hit “publish” on. And sometimes we’ve got amazing work in our back catalog that’s largely unseen by our audience—especially if we created that content before we had much of one. Our archives are filled with things that ought to be shared more than just when they’re published or more than just when our social media scheduling app Tweets them out again (who clicks on those anyway?).

This is a subject that comes up in almost every conversation I have with friends who are bloggers, podcasters and content creation folks. Their audiences crave new, constantly, paying no attention to previous content. And, most of these people are popular because they’ve developed a certain cadence with content, and feel obligated to fulfill it. Hell, I feel obligated to deliver a newsletter called the Sunday Dispatches every Sunday. Not to mention the fact that I haven’t missed one since November 12, 2012 (except for scheduled breaks of course). I’m not even saying that I don’t like publishing weekly—because I do—I would just be lying if I said sometimes I didn’t feel the pressure to do it.

Often times our back catalog is full of gems and knowledge. But we become so busy creating new content that we lose the time we used to have to learn, explore, play, and become curious—all of which are required to think of new ideas or develop new takes on old ideas. I find the biggest benefit from taking twice-yearly breaks from my content schedule is that when I come back to writing articles, my interests are slightly different (which is more interesting to both me as a creator and hopefully to you, the reader). I’ve likely learned a new thing or two and had the space needed to come to new conclusions.

I think more bloggers, podcasters, and content creators in general might consider offering up their “greatest hits” on a more frequent basis. The actual benefit of the content, isn’t that it’s fresh, it’s that it’s valuable. That shouldn’t change if it was released for the first time today or eight months ago.

Looking at the albums in my music library, I actually see some greatest hits albums in there. Sometimes it represents the work I like the most from them. It’s like musical shorthand in a handy little package or a perfect introduction to something new. After all, great content is great content, no matter how it’s packaged.

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some of my back catalog of articles here. I don’t know if these would be on my “greatest hits” album of writing, but they might be.

Side A

Side B

Now where’d I put my To The Extreme cassette?

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