There’s a face editors make when you suggest they should repurpose editorial content; something like the face people make when smelling milk from the office fridge. The milk’s probably OK, but the face says they’re ready for the worst.
Editors don’t like old stuff. They’re trained to value fresh content, news or features that they know no one has read before. Good for them, new content wins every time. But like our poor planet, editorial resources are finite and recycling helps publishing teams conserve energy for future endeavours.
You have probably heard this from me before, but you’ll have guessed I’m not beyond recycling a good story. When BBC3 launched, amidst the inevitable furore around repeated programming, a beleagured BBC executive explained to disgruntled license payers that, “it’s only a repeat if you saw it the first time”.
If a national television broadcaster with millions of viewers every day and 24-hour programming suffers fagmented audience attention, magazine editors certainly do. Repurposing content isn’t as cynical as it might sound. Every magazine’s print circulation is limited and it’s a fact that there are online-only readers out there who will value your content. And I’ll let you into a little secret: not every subscriber reads every article in every issue. Putting print articles online, in newsletters and on tablets exposes your content to different audiences.
Also, in stark contrast to the Highlander movies, there is no cosmic law in publishing that says there can only be one version of an article. Maybe your stock-in-trade in print is long-form features packed with illustrations. Online you can run abstracts formatted like news stories to give the essence of long-form pieces quickly. Podcasts, slideshows, videos can do the same job. For some readers, the snippet is enough. Those that want to move on to the real-deal can download a full-fat PDF straight from your pre-press department – your commercial guys will love it if you make readers register for the download.
Recycling doesn’t have to mean re-hash. You can add complimentary digital content that enhances your print content. Interviews in print tell the story, but add a sound clip on a digital magazine or a web page and now your readers can hear just how passionate your interview subject is about their story. Another example – a two or three page feature has some room for incidental art, but a complimentary online slideshow can add real depth to your photo journalism.
Think of recycling as a starting point – a way to reach new readers, a way to add value to what you’re doing in print. Do it well and you’ll improve your audience engagement and save some energy for creating fresh, new content.