Don't publish for the sake of publishing. You may have one key message that you leave on your homepage for years. It's not a matter of having content that is new or old; it is a matter of having content that is relevant and useful.Some organizations hardly ever bother to update their websites. There are stories on the homepage that can be months-if not years-out of date. These organizations simply don't understand that leaving this content on the website is damaging to the professional reputation of the organization.
However, some organizations publish new content even when they shouldn't. They fall into the trap of thinking that publishing is about news. Yes, an element of publishing can be about news, but that is not what the core purpose of publishing is. At a basic level, publishing is about getting the right content to the right person at the right time at the right cost.
The right content could be five years old. The wrong content could be five minutes old. In fact, a major challenge today can be to hold back on publishing until you have your facts correct. (The American media will be aware of this challenge in relation to previous U.S. presidential elections.) It damages your reputation if you publish something quickly and it's wrong.
I come from a small county in Ireland called Longford. The Longford News is a local newspaper and it once had an eccentric editor whose name presently escapes me. Well, one week the lead story on the front page of The Longford News was:
No News This Week
If you are not an organization that creates news, then don't have a prominent news section on your website. If you have one major message, then it is perfectly okay to promote that message in the center of your homepage every day of every year.
I come across organizations that struggle to create news. They do a lot of hard work that ends up being counter-productive. That's because they publish content that is not relevant to their target audience. Sometimes, this 'new' content pushes much more important content off the homepage. Always, it gets in the way because readers wonder what this is about, and if, in fact, they are at the right website.
It's not about being new. It is about being useful. Your job as a website editor is to make the difficult decisions in relation to what really matters to your key readers. How does news help them complete the task that they came to your website to do?
Remember, what is news to your organization may be of zero interest to the public. For example, some organizations make the dreadful mistake of publishing press release on their homepage. Reading a typical press release is about as interesting and useful as watching your computer boot up.
Press releases were never meant to be published; they were meant to be released to the press, who would then consider if there was something newsworthy in them. A press release is, at best, a foundation for a piece of content.
If you've nothing useful to publish, publish nothing. Stick with the same message as long as that message achieves your objectives.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.