Are you doing enough to recycle your evergreen content?
Publishers should install systems for regularly resurfacing older content.
Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:
Hey folks! Today I’m answering questions from readers. If you have a question you want me to answer in a future newsletter, leave it in this thread.
Are you doing enough to recycle your evergreen content?
The first question comes from Lefteris Statharas
Hi there! I'm sure you have covered this before, but I am wondering how do you recycle some of your longer pieces? I recently started writing some longer pieces that are not really time sensitive. What, in your opinion, is the best strategy to reshape, re-use or re-share the pieces so their reach is increased?
In August, I wrote a piece on how publishers can do more to repurpose their content, but I think you’re touching on a related-but-different topic: recycling content. I would define it as the act of resurfacing evergreen content to audience members who might not have seen it when it was originally published.
Back in 2015, the editors at Vox.com performed a fascinating experiment. As then-editor Matthew Yglesias explained:
For one week, we asked our writers and editors to update and republish a number of articles — one each day — that were first posted more than two months ago … Rather than putting the old article back up again unchanged, or adding a little apologetic introductory text to explain why it was coming back and was possibly outdated in parts, we just told people to make the copy as good as it could be.
So we changed the text to be up-to-date and accurate. We changed the headline if the writer felt the old headline didn't work very well. We added new information. We added new ideas. We rewrote sections that dragged. The result was that some pieces went up virtually identical to their original form. Others bordered on unrecognizable. Our articles have always had "updated at" rather than "published at" adjacent to our time stamp, so we simply changed the "updated at" time. Everything got tweeted from the @voxdotcom twitter account and some of the stories went up on our Facebook page.
The results were pretty striking:
In a five-day period, we ran 88 of these stories, and collectively they brought in over 500,000 readers. That was great to see. The articles generated a lot of positive feedback, and some pieces that writers really put a lot of work into but that didn't attract much readership the first time around became hits.
There’s this tendency within the media industry to simply publish a piece of content, blast it out to all of your channels, and then move on to producing the next piece of content. The underlying theory is that those within your audience who are actually interested in the content will click on it and consume it.
That logic is heavily flawed. Internet users are bombarded with so many videos, headlines, and images every day that it’s incredibly easy for content to be buried in the feed. Even if someone opens up an article in a browser tab, it can get lost in a sea of other open tabs. Readers go on vacation or simply have busy days, so they declare “email bankruptcy” and delete all their unread newsletters. I have literally thousands of articles saved to Instapaper that I simply never got around to reading.
Also, your outlet is acquiring new readers all the time, and most of the new subscribers are completely unaware of what you published before they came on board. Since March, my email list has grown by 71%. That means nearly half my audience barely knew I existed six months ago, much less read my prior stuff.
This is why publishers should install systems for regularly resurfacing their content. Here are a few strategies I employ:
Create a spreadsheet of evergreen content: I have a Google Sheet that’s titled “articles to tweet out.” This makes it much easier to find articles when I’m scheduling posts on social media.
Create a landing page for your best longform content: I created an article titled “Index of case study interviews” that links to all of my longform case studies. Then, when someone becomes a paid subscriber to my newsletter, it generates an automated welcome email that encourages the reader to browse through the case studies.
Set aside time each week for scheduling posts: Every Monday I have a designated time to schedule out social media posts linking to my most recent 25 articles. I schedule them for the hours of the day that I’m less likely to be posting to social media — that way I’m capitalizing on a natural lull. I do the same on Fridays, scheduling tweets to go out over the weekend.
Link to prior coverage within articles: Writers often build on stories and ideas that they’ve already covered, yet they don’t take the 60 extra seconds to go find an older article and then drop a link into the new one. Not only does this help drive your readers back into your archives, but this is also important for SEO purposes.
Promote older stuff within your newsletter: At the end of every Wednesday newsletter, I have an “ICYMI (in case you missed it)” item linked at the very end. It always links to an evergreen article I’d published months before. These are often among the most clicked-on links within my newsletter.
What strategies do you use to promote evergreen content? Sound off in the comments.
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Are narrative podcasts really a bad investment?
Earlier this week I published a newsletter arguing that most publishers shouldn’t bother with launching narrative podcast series. I cited a lack of advertising inventory, unpredictable audience sizes, and outsized costs.
At the end of the piece, I polled subscribers to see if they agreed with my argument. Many of you didn’t:
What’s behind the disagreement? Esther Kezia Thorpe, co-creator of the The Publisher Podcast Awards, wrote this in my Facebook group:
You had some valid points but I didn't agree with the conclusion. Sweet Bobby was transformative for Tortoise here in the UK, and they're now audio-first with a mix of narrative and interview shows. Some of our Publisher Podcast Award winners do narrative shows pretty cheap and say the listener numbers are better, and they have more longevity. History Extra does their narrative series in their main feed but releases them to subscribers first. As with all things, a mix is good. Narrative series can enhance a more routine podcast schedule but there's no good binning everything and going all in on them.
Here was my response:
Yeah, there are certainly lots of success stories out there. I think the main point I was driving at was that if a publisher has, say, $200k set aside to experiment with podcasts, they're better off spending that on 100 episodes of a conversational show than 10 episodes of a narrative show. I think narrative shows are great for larger publishers like Vox Media which already publish hundreds of podcast episodes a month and therefore have the marketing capacity to promote their narrative series to their already-existing listeners.
Mignon Fogarty, creator of the super popular Grammar Girl podcast, chimed in:
I agree with you. [Narrative series] can be huge, and I hear that selling the IP is great, but they've always felt too risky to me. It feels like a gamble, and I wouldn't test those waters unless I had money I was 100% OK losing. I'll leave it to the big corporations, VC-backed startups, and indies doing it for love.
I've long thought that programmatic display advertising was mostly a waste of money. Not only is so much of it subject to fraud, but even the legitimate impressions are useless. The media industry should have invested instead in building self-service advertising tools that allow brands to easily upload native content without going through an ad salesperson. [Wired]
A good profile of Noah Shachtman, the former Daily Beast editor who took over Rolling Stone. [Vanity Fair] It is really quite incredible that The Daily Beast didn't become a clickbait hellhole like Newsweek after Tina Brown left it.
Crooked is one of the most interesting media companies to watch right now, especially since it spent its first five years completely bootstrapped. It's also diversified beyond political content so it's less dependent on campaign cycles. [Variety]
TechCrunch is now generating about 50% of its revenue from events and subscriptions, with the other 50% coming from advertising. [Adweek]
"I’m here to tell you most podcasts probably get fewer listens than you think." Yep, if you get 1,000 downloads per episode, you're probably in the top 1% of all shows. [Media Voices]
How to find sponsors without cold-pitching companies
The next question comes from Kaloh
What are the best ways to attract companies or products looking to showcase ads in my newsletter?
I think one of the misconceptions about building an advertising business is that you need to have a salesperson dedicated to going out and cold-pitching companies to buy sponsorships. While that’s certainly the case if you want to scale up your business and hire staff, I think the average solo creator can generate enough sponsorship revenue to sustain themselves without having to engage in very much cold pitching. Let’s look at some of the methods you can use:
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