See it, click it: getting over my RSS/old school blogger brain

This stupid picture of me was taken in 2006, back when RSS reigned supreme and Pinterest didn't exist.
Stupid picture of me courtesy of 2007, back when RSS was cool, only college kids used Facebook, and Pinterest didn't yet exist.
I've talked a lot about my love of RSS. RSS is the outgrowth of a content logic that's very much in-line with my old school blogger brain: show me all the posts, with the most recent at the top. I started blogging in 2000 (aww, look!), and that's just how my brain works: the most recent stuff is the most important. When it comes to how I think about content, it's basically the homepage of a blog. Most recent = most important, and then everything else is listed beneath in descending order of recency. That's how I read everything. That's how I think about everything. That's how my editorial brain works.

I've become increasingly aware however that, thanks to the popularity of Facebook and Pinterest, that's not how many Offbeat Empire readers think about content. These two social media tools are changing the way my readers learn about our posts, and as I adapt to the shift, it's changing the way I think about my social media broadcasting strategy.

Facebook

Referrals to offbeatbride.com from Facebook.
Referrals to offbeatbride.com from Facebook.
Tens of thousands of Offbeat Empire readers use Facebook as their primary way to follow our blog posts, and while that confuses the hell out of my RSS/blogger brain, it's clearly working for a LOT of you. Sure, it means that you don't always see every post, but when I'm watching my real time stats, I can always tell when a new post has syndicated to our Facebook page — there's an IMMEDIATE spike, even if only 10% or so of our Facebook followers see any given post.

What I'm learning here is that unlike RSS followers who, like me, want RECENT posts… Facebook followers don't really care about recency. I've been experimenting lately with linking posts from our "archives of awesome" on Offbeat Bride's Facebook page, and followers see them and click them — often with higher engagement rates than our new content!

Offbeat Bride has a transient Facebook readership, and chances are if you're planning a wedding in 2013, you don't remember a really great advice post we did in 2010. Nor do you care that the post was written in 2010 — does the title make it clear that it's relevant to you now? Then you click! Facebook is a platform based on relevancy. They have a lot of algorithms based on trying to figure out if a given post is relevant to your newsfeed. Recency is not relevancy.

My RSS brain feels like I'm cheating somehow… "But these aren't new posts!" my blogger brain says. "Why would anyone want to read them?" The answer is that with our transient readership on Facebook, no one cares if the post isn't brand new. They care if it's relevant to them. The end. My RSS blogger brain is starting to understand.

Pinterest

Ignore the big dip -- our analytics farted out for a bit in February.
Referrals to offbeatbride.com from Pinterest. Ignore the big dip — our analytics farted out for a bit in February.
Fuck, man. I've written before about the crazy rise of Pinterest in our referral logs. It's intense watching something like this take over the web, and I know that this isn't just my stats — Pinterest is supposedly driving a HUGE amount of traffic across the web right now. Over the last couple months, thanks to Pinterest's new analytics tools, I've started looking at what other people are pinning from Offbeat Bride, and repinning non-stop. These pins are typically NOT from recent content; I'd say about half our recent pins are from old posts. What I've seen from my repins is that our Pinterest followers don't care if it's new — if the pin is pretty and relevant, then you click it.

What I'm learning here is that unlike RSS followers (who, again, just want to see the most recent posts), Pinterest followers want to see pretty shit. Sure, some of them want practical information or great advice, but Pinterest is a platform based on compelling visuals. Does this photo inspire you or make you curious? Then you click!

Again, my poor Web 1.0 RSS blogger brain feels like I'm cheating somehow… "But these aren't new posts!" my blogger brain says again. "Why would anyone want to read them?" The answer is that with our transient readership on Pinterest, no one cares if the post isn't brand new. They care if it's pretty and inspiring. The end. Again, my RSS blogger brain is juuuuust starting to understand.

What does it all meeeaaaaan

It means that while much of my work and business expenses go toward producing NEW content, ultimately when it comes to people following us via social media like Pinterest and Facebook… no one cares. Ok, ok, I'm being a bit hyperbolic: if we stopped producing new posts, people would notice quickly and the Empire would fall down. But I'm starting to understand that when it comes to social media, the Offbeat Empire's enormous back catalog is hugely valuable. We have tens of thousands of posts going back to 2007… most of which are still relevant, and lots of which are super pretty.

The challenge for me is shifting my RSS blogger brain into curator mode. At this point, I have to start treating my own back catalog as a powerful and productive harvest. When it comes to social media strategy, I have to break out of blogger brain, where NEW = MOST IMPORTANT and into curator brain where "relevant" and "pretty" reign supreme.

  1. It's so easy to forget about past years' seasonal content! Unless the title of the post was "How to celebrate May 2011 because it's 2011 and we want to celebrate this year only", it's going to feel fresh to somebody.
    Pinterest's visual focus allows your content to be spread out of its usual context, putting it in front of eyes that might not have seen it otherwise. I can imagine homeowners repinning Bride stuff for home decor while brides may pin Home or Families stuff for wedding inspiration. I think that's the real value in Pinterest for publishers! Your stuff can spread to an audience that thinks it doesn't want to hang out with you until–oh my goodness, are those polka dotted mason jars?

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  2. I am right there with you, Ariel. I am all about the RSS and it causes me physical pain to imagine using Facebook as my gateway to content.

    But then again: John Scalzi's Whatever is a frequently-updated blog that I don't have in my reader because my interest waxes and wanes. When I care about what Scalzi has to say/am using the site to kill time, I go on a binge, often using the Random Whatever link in his sidebar to shove content into my eyeballs, and a lot of his content is far more topical than anything on the Empire. So yeah — archives are a valuable resource and keep people coming back!

    (but ugh facebook is not a good content provider why would you do that to yourself whyyyyyyyy)

    1 agrees
  3. I trust you guys, but it would make me super sad if you started doing 'rerun' posts frequently. I follow Homes, Families, and Empire through reader, and get excited for each new post. If that new post was instead an old post, I'd feel a bit let down every time. I promise though, when I'm planning a wedding again I'll head over to Bride and search like a madwoman.

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    • I don't mind (and even enjoy!) links to old content on twitter and facebook, assuming I used facebook, as long as they were labelled as such, but I agree I wouldn't want to see it in my RSS reader. The reason I use it is so I don't miss anything! I don't need to reread there. I do occasionally go on a "similar posts to this" link binge, though.

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    • There are NO PLANS EVER to publish "re-run" posts on the blogs or via RSS. I absolutely was not trying to say that I'm changing the blog's editorial strategy or RSS strategy… as I said in the post, "if we stopped producing new posts, people would notice quickly and the Empire would fall down."

      My goal here was to talk about about the ways I'm shifting my social media strategy to better fit the needs of the our Facebook & Pinterest followers… because people who follow us via social media have different priorities than those who read via RSS or visit the homepage. But if you don't follow the blogs via Facebook or Pinterest, then you won't notice anything. My editors will keep churning out new content day after day!

      It's interesting to note the numbers here… on Offbeat Bride, for instance, there are 10,000 RSS followers, as opposed to 23,500 Facebook followers and 19,600 Pinterest followers. RSS is my medium of choice, but I'm aware that I'm in the minority.

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      • I came to the comments looking for a response to the article that was shaped like this. I am consistently impressed with the consideration that you give to your readers. All of them.

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  4. I've noticed the old posts on Pinterest – I'll see something and be like "Ooh, this looks interesting", then click through and go "Hmm, I feel like I've read this before".
    http://refugeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/299-Fry-Futu-1.jpg

    But even though I recognise the posts, I've generally forgotten them, and often find myself relearning things that I fully intended to remember the first time around. So I've found it to be pretty cool!

    5 agree
    • Ok, right!? I swear, I see stuff sourced from us on Pinterest and even as the publisher who has edited every single post that's ever appeared on every single site, *I* don't even recognize things! I figure if I barely remember stuff, it's probably ok to repin….

      3 agree
    • Totally–and sometimes a post that wasn't relevant to me two years ago is relevant or interesting now. I don't mind being reminded!

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  5. This is why I love the featured posts at the top of each site. Offbeat Home covers a huge swath of topics and it can be hard to remember them all. Likewise, an Offbeat Families article on disciplining toddlers might not have gotten a read through from me back when I was in my baby hungry wishing days, but I am desperate for it now. Usually, I'll click on the interesting looking featured article and then remember it once I see it. Even then, though, it's usually worth a reread.

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  6. I am just (like literally this week) getting into Pinterest. I will never make facebook my portal for reading web content because it's too unpredictable when it comes to changing policies for sharing information with other people. I don't need my fb friends somehow seeing that I read 5 articles on decoupaging furniture.

    I had only just gotten into Google reader when it was torn from my grasping fingers, and I gotta say, I like RSS. For blogs like OBB that I've been reading for 5 years, I do want to see only the most recent content. RSS leads to brand loyalty too, I organize who I see and when. OBB was at the top of my list and I read it every day. Other blogs that posted less frequently went down the list or got eliminated if their ideas started to run out/they moved on.

    Now people who I follow on Pinterest pop up seemingly randomly in my home feed. I have been disappointed the past few days seeing OBE posts that I recognize from a few years ago. Again that's because I remember them, if I were a newer reader it wouldn't matter.

    The real bummer of Pinterest's "relevancy over recency" model is when the original link has been broken or original blog post is gone. That happens more than a little.

    "Hey! What a great idea! Let me check it …." [404 error] "WTF!?"

  7. I love RSS and Twitter for the rest of my life! But not for wedding planning. There's not enough new, fresh content for the planning period, so I don't care how old the posts are.

    One challenge of shifting to a curating concept – all the broken photo links ! I'm so sad when I find a post with no photos, though it makes sense that people eventually clean out their photo accounts.

    1 agrees
    • If you see old posts with dead photos, be sure to let us know! We often have contact info for the couple, and can update the posts.

  8. I never gelled with RSS readers and I wonder if that is why – I never really care/d about the recency of blog posts; i tend to binge-read or check periodically when I'm in the mood. Anything I really want to track I stick on my bookmarks toolbar and go through everything every couple of days; that's how I keep up with webcomics and stuff nowadays.
    For me, a facebook "like" isn't necessarily about following your posts on facebook, but more showing to people who know me that i like this cool thing without jamming it in their face… and yeah, sometimes it will remind me I haven't checked OBH in a few days!
    or a few weeks as I'm commenting on a fairly old post now, but you get my drift. Much like casual gaming, I think people are more and more casual blog-reading, rather than planning strategic assaults…

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  9. I totally admit I just came here via Facebook. And I love my RSS! But I also am more likely to have Facebook open than my RSS reader (priorities when Chrome has told me in no uncertain terms that I cannot have 20 tabs open and accomplish anything). I find myself more and more going to content from Facebook. Creeps me out, man, but I still do it.

    • You're in really good company. ­čÖé Next topic for discussion: is sharing the new commenting?

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