Almost all media produced in our modern mass society is consumer media, that is, media produced for the sole purpose of consumption. In practical terms this means the consumption of your time through entertainment.

The opposite of consumer media is media produced for the world, the purpose of which is to augment the existing world of ideas. Where consumer media is disposable—its value is used up as it uses up your time—worldly media durable, its durability built on the strength of its ideas or artistic merit. I found the best description of this contrast in Hannah Arendt’s book Between Past and Future, specifically in the essay called The Crisis in Culture, which you can probably find separately as it was originally published on its own.

It is telling that marketers use the word “evergreen” to describe durable content. Rather than use the more obvious word “timeless”, the marketer borrows from nature, seeking to escape the natural cycle of growth and decay that describes the typical content they produce.

There is, of course, a reason for why they don’t call it timeless. “Evergreen” content is generally aimed at beginners. The marketer escapes the life cycle by attaching their work to the one thing that is permanent: natality. Even though a beginner will, in time, no longer be a beginner, there will always be new beginners to take their place. The content a marketer produces is not timeless in the sense of not being tied to a time and place, but rather, it is useful for an indefinite amount of time. The connotations of quality that the word timeless carries are not there.

The interesting thing about this is that the writer who pursues “evergreen” at no point attempts to write timeless work. It is understandable in the case of marketers trying to attract traffic via search engines, but not in the case of individual bloggers, onto whom the very same concept is pushed as a panacea for all their traffic needs. The problem here is that by substituting “evergreen” for timeless you put basic guides and lists in place of original ideas, blocking the only path that can lead you out of the perpetual cycle of consumption.

October 2015