If a single television season represented one mile, America’s longest-running sitcom, The Simpsons, would be near the finish line of a full marathon. With season 25 underway, Fox recently announced plans for a 26th season. Since 1989, The Simpsons has broadcast more than 532 episodes. Now that’s a content marathon.
This weekend, some 48,000 runners will tackle the NYC Marathon. In an article on marathon running, Patrick McCrann described “the wall” as “...the point [during a marathon] where your body and mind are simultaneously tested, and the perfect intersection of fatigue and diminished mental faculties.” Any distance runner that’s experienced the wall knows how devastating it can be to morale.
Content creation can be as challenging as a marathon when fatigue sets in – especially for long-time brands. Whether you’re writing and animating television scripts, or generating branded content like blog posts, white papers and infographics, keeping your audience coming back week after week isn’t easy. So, how can you avoid the content wall? Here are a few tips on longevity from The Simpsons.
1. Assemble a diverse team of content creators.
Over the years, there have been more than 100 writers for The Simpsons including series co-creators Matt Groening and Sam Simon, cast member Dan Castellaneta (voice of Homer), and outside talent like Conan O’Brien. When it comes to content, look to your company’s founders, brand insiders most intimately familiar with a specific topic, and outsiders that bring a special flair to your content. Mixing things up with content from many people and points of view helps keep things interesting.
2. Stay true to your brand, but evolve with the times.
However successful, The Simpsons hasn’t been without its rough patches. Around season ten, critics and long-term fans began to comment about the show’s decline in quality and shift from its original charm. Any publisher or brand must find the right balance between creating content that’s both consistent and relevant. While you can’t please all the people all the time, Dan Castellaneta had good advice when he explained things by saying “I think it [The Simpsons] organically changes to stay fresh.” While it’s bad to suddenly change your content’s direction out of the blue, evolving to stay relevant is okay.
3. Serve up regularly scheduled special content.
Some of the most popular and highly anticipated Simpsons episodes are the Halloween “Treehouse of Horror” specials. Watching these episodes, which fall around Halloween at the start of every new season, remains an annual tradition for fans both old and new. A great way to keep your audiences engaged and coming back is to start a special series of branded content that people can count on. This content can be informational, entertaining, or both and can be shared weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or whatever works best for you.
So, to all you content creators in it for the long haul, take a deep breath; stretch your legs; keep on going and most importantly: don’t have a cow, man!
P.S. - Last Friday, the entertainment world lost Marcia Wallace, star of The Simpsons and Bob Newhart. Wallace was the voice of Bart’s teacher, Edna Krabappel, for which she won an Emmy in 1992. The full story is here.