I was cleaning up some backups the other day from one of my older computers and came across a series of short films distributed by the AtomFilms To Go podcast – way back in 2006. They were brilliant, pithy short films, a few minutes at most, produced for the first video iPods of the era.
Eager to share them, I hit up YouTube to snag a copy I could share… and found nothing. They weren’t there. In fact, they weren’t anywhere. That’s impossible, I thought to myself. Almost everything is on YouTube, and these short films weren’t anything objectionable. They were actually quite good; this one is called High Maintenance:
Can’t see anything? Watch it on YouTube here.
Then I remembered… they were from 2006. YouTube launched in 2005 but didn’t really become the dominant player in online video for a few years after that. In its first years, it was the cat video site. The creators of these AtomFilms to Go episodes probably didn’t even consider uploading to YouTube at the time.
Which means that for all practical intents and purposes, these videos are just… gone. All that time, effort, marketing resources, budget… poof. As though it had never happened. That content ended up in the content marketing graveyard, and the tombstones are so worn, no one can remember it any more.
The same goes for a lot of content from the early and mid 2000s, especially the first wave of podcasting. Virtually all of the episodes of my first podcast, the Financial Aid Podcast, are gone from public access; when the company I worked for at the time discontinued the podcast, they stopped paying the hosting provider, and the files were all deleted. I still have about 75 of the 940 episodes, but most of them are permanently gone, and there’s no way to retrieve them. A half hour’s work every day for 5 years just erased.
So what’s the point of all this, besides a walk down memory lane? Content lives on only as long as the underlying infrastructure supports it. If you’re doing great work, make sure it’s published somewhere that will sustain it, that will be around as long as you want the content to be around. This is especially true for your personal brand; some of my content from the early 2000s does still exist and is still accessible, but the majority of it is gone.
If you create something that you think represents some of your best work or is in some way notable, make sure you keep a copy of it – possibly several. There’s no way to know whether services like the Wayback Machine will correctly and accurately capture your work for preservation, so it’s on you to save it. Services like Amazon Glacier will hold your data for as long as Amazon keeps them active, and the cost of storage is very low.
If you’re an organization and you’re not sure you want to keep some content around – your brand or strategy might have changed – it’s still not a bad idea to use a service like the Wayback Machine to take a snapshot of where you are now, for posterity’s sake, as well as backing it up to services like Amazon Glacier. At the very least, it will let you have something to talk about at major company milestones down the road, and it will help your future self and future employees understand where the company came from.
At best, you’ll have a swipe file of content you can draw future inspiration from and maybe even resample and reuse, without needing to pay new licensing fees or contract out help to generate.
For example, I still have probably have close to 300 hours of music licensed from the Podsafe Music Network (long since defunct) that I can still legally use in new publications. That includes the now almost impossible to find Vegas Hard Rock Shuffle by former Brooks & Dunn guitarist Charlie Crowe. If I wanted to, I could reuse that music in new content under the terms of the license I signed. Instead of languishing in content marketing limbo, it could be brought back to life.
Don’t allow your hard-created content to end up in the content marketing graveyard. Create some kind of archiving system, be it just simple storage and backups or something as complex as a digital asset management system, but keep your content alive and working for you.
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