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Using Content Recycling to Increase your Audience, Revenue and Profits

12 ways to make an old magazine article new again through content recycling

The VP of The Taunton Press was quoted a few years ago as saying, “We can’t afford to pay for content if it’s going to be a one-time use.”

But yet twenty to thirty years ago that’s all content ever was: one time use. There was no content recycling.

Sure there were some exceptions. For example, we’ve seen National Geographic recycle the same stories in their magazine with updates once every ten years for the last several decades. And plenty of publishers sell re-prints.

But that’s not quite the same as taking a story and turning it into an article, a free report, a book chapter and a video, and selling several of them at the same time at different price points.

For National Geographic, most of their cover stories seem to start out, untraditionally, with video. A team is sent out, video is recorded and edited, a story comes from the video, and then it’s distributed in their magazine with photos, online, through their web magazine and apps, and wherever else it fits. It’s offered in micro-doses when promoted through social media and email, and it may be excerpted in short form as a free article on their website meant for sharing. Though the story begins as one project, it turns into many and National Geographic ends up with most advertising, subscription and product sales from it.

Multiplatform Publishers Going Beyond the Norm with Content Recycling

Do you remember the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” So many publishers we know see no value in their archives, but we think they’re a goldmine. So for smart and innovative magazine publishers, this little idiom rings true across the board. Just as your recyclables are picked up every week and crunched into reusable products, so can multiplatform publishing repurpose the wealth of content you have available. Old things get turned into new things.

Here at Mequoda, we love to find multiplatform publishing examples that showcase fresh ways to recycle content. As the digital age continues to morph into an ever-changing, ever-growing beast (feasting on the bones of print materials), multi-platform publishing continues to become a necessary tool for business growth and sustainability.

Take a look at The New Yorker, who has consistently ranked (with us) at the top tier of multiplatform publishing examples. Their brand wheel is extensive, utilizing various ways to recycle content. From their Double Take blog (where old articles get repurposed into new content) to their issue archives, the New Yorker sets the bar for other magazine publishers in today’s digital landscape.

One of the New Yorker’s signature features is its insightful, humorous, and witty cartoons. They’ve been published in the magazine since its inception in 1925, and now can be purchased and used through their Cartoon Bank. Thousands of cartoons, which were not utilized after each issue period ended, are now being utilized in a big way. The Bank makes millions of dollars per year, a large percentage of which is paid to the cartoonists directly.

Then there’s Paris Review. One of the reasons why the Paris Review has continued to grow and maintain a loyal readership over so many years is because they are pioneers in making available (across different platforms) their most popular content: the writer interviews. Since 1953, this literary magazine has conducted interviews with big name writers all over the world, compiling a wealth of content that’s unique and easily repurposable.

Now that the Paris Review has fully integrated themselves online, every interview is available for visitors to browse and read through–for free! These freebies give the magazine a leg up on the competition for attracting website traffic while also creating numerous windows for soft selling their elegant web magazine, which features each current issue and all of the articles within it. most of which are behind a paywall. What’s more, they’ve recycled those interviews into compilation books (both in print and digital) to sell in their online store.

Content repurposing is an integral part of the multi-platform publishing process. It’s much easier and less expensive to recycle from one platform to another, rather than trying to create (and maintain) new content for each. Now you can save time while creating more opportunities to sell services, products or ad space–all with the same content.

Getting Started Content Recycling and Multiplatform Publishing

While the New Yorker and Paris Review have found creative ways to recycle products unique to them, there are plenty of ways to recycle content that most publishers like you already have.

Let’s start with your most fundamental minimum information unit, a magazine article. If you’re a legacy publisher with a big archive, you have more of these than you know what to do with. The hardest part is digitizing them, but after that, they can become:

  1. A blog post optimized for search
  2. A chapter in a book
  3. An entire eBook or white paper
  4. Chapters in an eBook or white paper
  5. The copy for a video blog post
  6. The research for an online event or live event
  7. Part of a membership website
  8. Part of a web library’s issue archive
  9. A social media post
  10. A guest post on a well-respected blog
  11. An authoritative post on a site like Medium
  12. A viral post on a site like Reddit

If you publish a monthly magazine and each issue includes 50 articles, every year you have content for 600 free blog posts or 600 premium website articles that remain behind a paywall in an archived web magazine library. Or a mix of both.

If you do not offer an archive for your subscribers, or if you’re a free magazine, this content can be released to your blog when it’s 90 to 365 days old and re-used as part of your circulation-building strategy. Some magazine publishers are posting 100 percent of their premium content online, simultaneous with or even before print publishing. This practice has not deterred their ability to sell thousand of magazine subscriptions online, although we do recommend waiting at least 90-days for releasing premium content.

As you might have picked up on, multiplatform publishing through content recycling comes in unlimited strategies on practically unlimited platforms. The only thing you need to know is what your strategy is.

If you’re looking for a partner in multiplatform publishing and would like to learn how we can help you earn more through content recycling like the hundreds of others we’ve helped, please schedule a time with me to chat.

In the comments below, we’d love to hear how YOU recycle content most profitably. 

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