Time to Clean House? When Intranet Content Becomes Obsolete

When it comes to keeping your intranet useful and relevant, it’s essential to identify content that has become obsolete — so you can either archive or delete it.

As intranet experts have observed, the amount of content in an intranet is inversely proportional to its usability. The more content you have in your intranet, the harder it is to use.

Usually, this leads to yo-yo dieting for intranet content management. The intranet content gets bloated, users complain, and irrelevant content is trimmed off. The users are happy again, but eventually more content is added, making the intranet overweight again. And another round of intranet liposuction is carried out.

Information architect Patrick Walsh recommends maintaining a “lean intranet” instead. This simply means that the visible content in the intranet is kept consistently low. This helps keep intranet usability high.

The next question is, of course, how do you keep intranet content lean?

Criteria for Obsolete Content

The first step is identifying obsolete content. Most companies use different criteria, such as:


Using time as a criterion means setting an expiration date for content. For some, it could be 6 months or 12 months from the time the content was created or last edited. The period of time differs for each organization.

Depending on the intranet platform being used, content can be automatically archived or deleted when this expiration date is reached.

However, age alone is not an accurate basis for deciding when content has become obsolete. After all, some company policies and documents (such as mission and vision, etc.) can remain untouched for years and still remain relevant.

So we need other criteria.


Another angle to look at is whether content is actually being accessed and used by intranet users. To determine this, you would look at the date when content was last accessed, as well as the number of hits it has received. Other organizations also measure usefulness by looking at the number of users’ likes or votes on the content.

Who Pulls the Plug

Another important question when it comes to curating intranet content is, whose responsibility is it?

Content Authors

Some give the task to the content authors themselves, leaving it up to them to set up expiration dates for their content, for example.

In a variation of this, intranet managers keep tabs on content, but notify content authors when their content need to be archived or deleted.

This can be a burdensome task for content authors, and can discourage content authoring.

Intranet Manager/Administrator

Another approach is to leave everything up to the intranet manager/administrator, only giving content authors a warning that their content is about to be archived or deleted.

James Robertson writes of how a big global business deleted 50,000 pages in one fell sweep. They anticipated many complaints and questions, but when the day came, they received 3 emails and 2 calls.

Gordon Ross tells  of an intranet manager who deleted 70,000 pages on their intranet… and no one noticed.

How Do You Do It?

How do you keep intranet content fresh and relevant? What criteria do you use to determine when intranet content has become obsolete? Who’s in charge of curating intranet content?

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