In retrospect

Which period of cinematic history do you consider to be the finest? The 1920’s which heralded the large-scale introduction of talkies? Perhaps the classic film noir period of the 40’s and 50’s is more your thing? Or how about the 60’s defined, in part, by the spaghetti western? For me, it belongs in the (ahem) rather specific mid-to-late 60’s to early-to-mid 70’s. The stars of the day (Hackman, Caine, McQueen at a pinch) were at the top of their game, the director’s (Coppola, Lumet, Kubrick) were never as bold again, but it’s due in large part to the fact that everybody’s shoes sounded pitch perfect when they walked (you might have to trust me on this).

Almost immediately after I’ve finished watching a film from this favoured era I’ll bound excitedly over to its entry on or Wikipedia to take a retrospective look at it. What I find are all the answers to my immediate questions: what impact (if any) did it make, how much did it cost/make, what became of the director and the cast, what was the production process like, and how is it remembered today? Oh, and what the hell was that ending all about?

I find myself constantly making previously unrecognised connections between the cast and their future roles (oh, that’s where I’ve seen them before) and finally ‘getting’ references to certain scenes or phrases in popular culture (I’ve found there’s around 56.5% chance of it being referenced in a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film). I find all this a great workout and stimulant for the brain.

I believe this same retrospective approach should also be taken with your archived web content. Somebody, somewhere (you perhaps?) took the ultimate decision to remove that flash element or replace that call to action. Why? Maybe you saw it as no longer relevant or useful for your audience? Maybe it was always meant for limited exposure? Or perhaps it was just your PHP developer’s ugly die() function error message that was removed with little mercy?

Whatever the reason(s) behind its removal, start to ask yourself, and others who were involved in its creation and upkeep, some questions: what impact (if any) did it make, what did it contribute to the overall business goals, what did it help you achieve, how was it used by your audience, was it the catalyst for more of this type of content, and was it ultimately a success or failure?

We, quite rightly, focus on the ‘now’ when we’re compiling or tending to our content audits, but I think there’s a lot to be learnt from digging into your archives from time-to-time – especially if that content pre-dates your direct involvement. Learning from past experiences will often help you work out where to focus your skills and budget on next.