Why recycling evergreen magazine content is a reader benefit—when done right.
A recent copy of National Geographic featured a story that showed a man, hanging off the side of a mountain, dangling from a several hundred foot rope ladder. You couldn’t see the bottom of it, because it was covered in mist, but you could see his face, reaching toward the next ladder step, covered in bees.
This man, dubbed the “last honey hunter” climbs massive cliffs in Nepal to get “mad honey” derived from the Himalayan Cliff Bee that pollinates nearby rhododendron patches, which is toxic to humans, making the honey a psychedelic and often used medicinally.
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Unfortunately, the man tasked with climbing the rope, smoking out the hives, and knocking it down to the ground to harvest honey, is currently considered the last guy in line to do it. To put it bluntly, he said the kids just don’t respect the tradition or the trade anymore, they prefer to gather on a local rock to catch the best cell reception instead.
The story was fascinating, so I used my digital subscription to their web magazine to look up more about these honey hunters.
Within their web magazine archive, I found several magazine articles about the master honey hunter of Nepal, but one article, from 1988, sounded strikingly familiar. As I dug, I found an archive of evergreen magazine content about the honey hunters of Nepal.
An issue from 1998 even used the same photo from 1988. It seems they skipped the annual update in 2008, but published a short article in 2004 and a few videos in 2016. Now in 2017, we see the story again. Refreshed, but strikingly similar to 1988, this time with a documentary crew to create a series of videos.
What I discovered was that National Geographic has recycled this story, in modified forms, since at least 1988. This is what National Geographic might consider evergreen magazine content, and they update it at least once a decade. The latest story is of a different honey hunter than the original. This one, the last honey hunter, is named Mauli Dhan, and the story published online is the most comprehensive edition of the honey-hunting saga to date. It includes numerous photos and videos, and truly feels like a digest on the honey hunters that National Geographic has been covering since at least 1988. The breadth of that background and research has truly lent itself to the 2017 edition.
How to create evergreen magazine topics and succeed
The story about the honey hunters was fascinating, and had I read it ten years ago, this update would have been just as intriguing. While readers depend on you to update stories and facts, the premise of a good article doesn’t need to be fresh every time. That’s how we end up with news shows that feature cats stuck in trees and that guy who drove through a stop sign.
I’m a boat owner, and I’m perfectly happy with receiving an article on winterizing my boat from my favorite sailing magazine every fall. And if the magazine is smart, they’ll recycle the same article and make it bigger and better year after year, just like Nat Geo did with the honey hunters. Maybe next year there will be a video, and the year after that they’ll interview the guy at a popular marina who winterizes the boats and adds even more expertise.
And I know that Martha Stewart doesn’t create 10 new turkey recipes every Thanksgiving for her magazines. Instead, she picks her favorites from her TV shows, her magazine, and her website, and might publish a list of her top ten, mixing it up every year. Content can be recycled, and done well. Readers would rather be shared tried-and-true content, like a good turkey and stuffing recipe, than one concocted for the sake of newness that isn’t quite as good.
The duty we have as magazine publishers isn’t to create the most content, it’s to create the best content. And often times that requires recycling magazine content and creating better articles from it.
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