Content Repurposing: What’s Old is New Again

Written by Neil Patel on March 10, 2015

old is new

You’ve got all this content that you’ve written. Maybe you wrote it weeks, months or even years ago. You published it to your blog, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t see the momentum that you were hoping for.

So now what? Do you just let it sit there and stagnate in the archives? Or, do you turn it into something extraordinary? Content repurposing is all about taking your existing content and presenting it to a whole new audience on a different platform.

Imagine being able to turn blog posts into actionable podcasts or PDF files into engaging slide shows…

What would that do for your bottom line?

It’s possible, through content repurposing. Content repurposing is simply taking your existing content and tweaking it for different learning styles. It is not simply content spinning or rehashing old or outdated information.

Instead, it’s more like refreshing — finding a new purpose for existing information and tweaking it so that it appeals to a larger audience segment.

So, how do you get started?

Let’s take a closer look, first at the different ways that people learn and then at the best approach for getting them to retain and act on what they’ve learned. This is important as you start to approach the different methods for content repurposing itself.

Download this content repurposing worksheet that you can use to repurpose your content.

How Do People Learn?

Think back to one of the earliest lessons you learned as a child: the stove is hot and it will burn you if you touch it.

  • If you’re primarily a visual learner, you might have seen the fire or the hot burner and trusted that your parent was right. Or, you saw a sibling touch the hot stove and noticed their reaction and that was enough to dissuade you from touching it!
  • If you’re primarily an auditory (hearing) learner, you heard your parents tell you the stove was hot, you trusted they were right and you didn’t touch the stove.
  • If you’re primarily a kinesthetic (touch/experience) learner, you touched the stove, felt the burn and never did it again.

You might already know which type of learner you are, but you might be surprised to know that you use a combination of learning styles. Learning to drive requires more hands-on teaching than, say, learning a foreign language. No method is better or worse than another.

So, now that you know the various ways that people learn, how do you engage them with your content?

According to a Columbia University study, people learn best when active learning takes place. Active learning means being personally involved in the lesson (or content being shared). It’s not just simple memorization and regurgitation of facts and figures, but actual inquiry, discovery and interpretation.

For example, an instructor typically speaks 100-200 words per minute, but when quizzed on the retention of that information, students only hear and process about half as much. They retain about 70% of the information that they hear in the first 10 minutes of class and about 20% of what they hear in the last 10 minutes.

Couple that with the browsing habits of the typical internet user and you can see what you’re up against: providing helpful, actionable information to people with short attention spans. Fortunately, I’m going to walk you through exactly how to do this, while shortening your content publishing and marketing workload considerably.

Let’s get started.

What Exactly is Content Repurposing?

Content repurposing is simply taking your existing content and reworking it to fit the needs of different styles of learning. It isn’t, however, just reading your blog post as a podcast. It takes into account how visitors learn best and uses methods that are proven to get them to act on that information.

For example, auditory learners may sign up to listen to your webinar, but they also need to know that what they’re hearing is trusted information.  So, they may need more of a foundation through things like testimonials (here again, audio will work better than plain text!), interviews with other experts and so on.

Content Repurposing versus Republishing

Content repurposing is admittedly more involved than just republishing your existing content in a different format. You can republish your blog post into a slide show, but if your post doesn’t take into account the tidbit-style of a slide show, you’ll end up with 50 slides just rehashing what could have easily been read in a single page.

With repurposing, you’re putting your most popular, evergreen content into the hands of visitors who might not otherwise get to see or enjoy that content, in a way that they can easily understand and appreciate.

The best part is, you can start repurposing the content the minute you hit PUBLISH.

Why Repurpose Content?

Simply put, repurposed content adds more horsepower to your marketing machine. It takes your content further much faster than you could ever do on your own. It helps you to build up a fan base that you may have never known existed. And, it does this without a lot of effort on your part.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply add more wheels to the machine?

How to Repurpose Content

So, now that we know the what and the why, it’s time to get down to business and actually repurpose our content.

First, take a look at your most popular, evergreen content. You can see which posts are performing best in Google Analytics. The images below, from Vimm.com, will walk you through each step.

Simply log into your Google account and choose the time frame that you want to analyze from your calendar.

Then, click on the Behavior tab and go to “Site Content” and “All Pages”:

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You’ll then see something like this, with your posts sorted by the highest number of page views:

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Once you know which content is performing best, it’s time to create a mind map of potential ideas for new, repurposed content. Start with your best performing post and create spokes for new ideas out from it. Here’s an example to walk you through each step:

BufferApp determined that one of their most perpetually high-performing post was from August, 2013. It was entitled, “10 Simple Things You Can Do Today that Will Make You Happier, Backed by Science.”  Those things included studies and graphics on everything from sleep to exercise.

So, what are some ways that we might repurpose this content? If you take a look at the individual items, there’s a wealth of ideas that spring up. For instance:

Original Content Point: Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness

New Content Points:

  • Inner peace mindful meditation audio
  • Walk-through video of proper meditation breathing techniques
  • Infographic on the scientific benefits of meditation

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An example of a meditation infographic

Original Content Point: Help Others: 100 Hours a Year is the Magic Number

New Content Points:

  • X Volunteering Opportunities Happening Now in (Your Local Town)
  • How to Start an Employee Volunteering Movement at Your Workplace
  • How the Brain Responds to Volunteering

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An example of a volunteering infographic

Now that you know what to look for, let’s get down to the actual repurposing.

Repurposing Content into a Blog Post

What makes a good blog post? As it turns out, there’s a good deal of scientific data behind the writing, such as this gem from BufferApp:

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In a nutshell, you need to condense your headline into six words – and make them work. Here’s a simple formula that can help:

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Think it’s too hard to squeeze all that clickable goodness into just six words? Here are a few examples:

  • 8 Delicious Appetizers made in 8 Minutes
  • 10 Proven Winter Blues Remedies
  • 3 Unbelievable Stories of Unstoppable Kids

Of course, you can use a featured image and a sub-headline to expand upon the headline in more detail. Springboard off of those sub-headlines into a story and you’ve got the beginnings of a great blog post using your existing content.

Needless to say, there’s a lot more to the perfect post than images and timing. For example, what kinds of posts do best? Should you allow comments? What about social sharing buttons? You’ll obviously want to split test these points to draw your own conclusions, but the chart below should give you a strong foundation to build from.

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So, taking your existing content and reworking it into a blog post (or several posts in a series) works best when the content in question can be formatted into a type of list or tutorial. It ideally shares a story in the beginning (the “hook”) and incorporates a handful of relevant photos, as well as deeper links into your site for more information.

The “soundbites for sharing” is an interesting point that refers to snippets from the article that can be shared on social media.

If you’re using WordPress, there’s a Click-to-Tweet plugin that makes this process simple and straightforward. By using regular WordPress pull quotes and customizing the message that you want to have appear, the Click-to-Tweet plugin manages the rest – making nicely formatted, Twitter-ready boxes that your readers can simply click to share.

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An example of the click-to-tweet plugin

Now turning your content into a blog post or a series of posts is one thing. But, oftentimes you’re starting with a blog post and looking for ways to repurpose it for other platforms, so let’s take a look at some alternatives.

Repurposing Content into eBooks

In the U.S., eBook sales revenue has risen steadily year after year – from about $274 million dollars in 2008 to a projected 8.5+ BILLION by 2017. Much of their popularity steps from the widespread use of tablets and mobile phones, making e-books a compact way to enjoy books on nearly any subject.

The best way to repurpose your content into an eBook – whether you want to sell it or give it away, is to capitalize on the value that your customers or prospects will get from it.

Notice I didn’t say the value you assign to it. If you’re going to repurpose your existing content into an ebook, it needs to be the best possible quality and contain the best possible information to create value in the customers’ minds.

That means taking the time to brainstorm, layout and format your ebook as if it were an actual book being prepared for print. Use a tool like Scrivener to layout the various chapters and what information they’ll contain. Copyblogger has a 30-day roadmap to writing an e-book from scratch.

Since you’re using your existing content, your timeframe will likely be even shorter. With modern word processing software, you can save your finished product as a PDF that makes it available for a wide variety of computer and device platforms.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the ebook shouldn’t just be a copy and paste-job of your existing content. Remember, we’re all about repurposing here.  So, expand upon, refresh, reorganize and build on what you’ve already covered.

Tackle it from a new angle or rework it for a new segment of your existing audience. Turn it into an easily consumable guide, such as a checklist or fill-in-the-blank template.

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The Common Sense SEO Checklist dates from 2009 but is still one of the most popular posts on CSS Tricks.

Writing an ebook doesn’t have to be a mammoth undertaking. Consider the things that your customers would find most valuable at each stage of their decision-making process and write content that makes that process easier, smoother or faster. It really is that simple.

Now, an ebook is a great downloadable platform for your existing content. But, for many people, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything that they want to read, no matter how interesting it might be.

That’s where slide shows come in. Fast, clear and concise, slide shows are gaining in popularity as a way to get crucial, detailed information on a topic, without all the fluff and filler. They can incorporate audio narration, or simply be visual aids to illustrate more complex ideas.

So, how do you turn your existing content into a slide show? Let’s take a look.

Repurposing Content to Presentations/Slide shows

When repurposing your content into a presentation or slide show, the worst thing that you can do is to simply read from the existing content or copy/paste it into the slides verbatim. You’ll want to start out by creating a main idea outline out of what you want to say, then fill in details as relevant.

Don’t cram a lot of words into each slide. Around 15 words or so is ideal. Remember, you want to get the main points across. Getting the images and (optionally) the sound right are going to be the most time-consuming parts.

With images, BBC’s audio slide show expert, Paul Kerley, recommends approximately 8-10 images per minute. That may sound like a LOT of images, but when you see an example of what just five photos in one minute looks like, it’s obvious that the pace is painfully slow. This example uses 9 pictures in one minute.

According to Mark Luckie, a journalist and interactive designer, each photo should appear on the screen for no less than 3 seconds, but no more than 10. It’s a delicate balance which depends entirely upon the images being presented, the pace of the story and the importance of the two points together.

Even then, an area where I see many people agonizing, when it comes to slide shows, is the choice of a template. You’d approach this just as you would the design of a website:

  • Make generous use of whitespace
  • Incorporate relevant typography and fonts
  • Make sure that the layout is designed to improve comprehension of the slides, not detract from it.
  • You can incorporate 3-4 colors in your design, but have one accent color for the points you really want to stand out.

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There’s just way too much going on in this slide to give it much attention

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This slide example uses white-space and eye-path gimmicks (arrows) to draw your attention to each statement

Once you have your slide show finished, it’s time to get the word out. Slideshare is the most popular choice, but Authorstream and Slideboom are also worth checking out.

Repurposing Content to Social Media

Most people think of repurposing content to fit social media as just slapping up a photo and a link to their blog.  But, the truth is that all of your posts will do remarkably better across all platforms, if you keep in mind what works best for each social network – and when.

Frac.tl and BuzzStream analyzed over 200,000 different pieces of content from 11 different market verticals to try to understand what content get shared most on social media. As it turns out, different types of posts across different industries do better in different months.

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For the purpose of the study, “what-posts” were posts that provided deeper information on a topic (comparisons, etc), while “why-posts” asked a question and provided follow-up by means of studies and insights and ended with a focused conclusion.

List posts were in the lead overall, with over 20,000 shares per month, or 22.45% social traction, narrowly followed by why-posts at 22.35%.

But again, the number of shares depends on the industry as well as the month. As you can see from the chart above, what-posts did extremely well in October, but lists topped the charts in June.

So, reworking content into a list, a “what,” “why” or “how” post or even a video can greatly increase the number of social shares and comments that you get versus the more traditional photo-and-link.

Aside from slide shows and social media, turning your content into a white paper or case study can help catapult you into becoming a recognized authority in your field. If you’re willing to do a little extra research and legwork, it may also earn you some valuable backlinks from well-known websites.

Let’s take a closer look:

Repurposing Content to White papers/Case Studies

According to Eccolo Media’s 2014 B2B Technology Content Survey Report, white papers rank as the most popular choice for enterprise buying decisions and the third highest type of content influencer for small and large businesses alike.

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But, what exactly is a white paper? Essentially, a white paper is a marketing tool that promotes your company in a favorable way by providing facts, statistics and other concrete details that then reflect back onto what you’re offering.

They often describe technical benefits or promote a certain strategy or methodology that bolsters your product or service. Because they refer to facts and figures, they’re viewed as more authoritative and informative in helping along a user’s buying decision than other types of promotional material (brochures and such).

Fortunately, a white paper is very easy to write. Typically, they fall into two types:

  1. List-style white papers (12 Benefits to Choosing a Multifunction Printer, 7 Things to Look for in an Email Marketing Service) and
  2. Traditional-style white papers that provide more detailed insights that a user might not ordinarily know about.

Writing the first type is very simple. Here’s how to do it:

First, start with a prompt, like “Things to Avoid When Buying A …” or “(Your Topic) Best Practices. Then, add a number of items that you can reasonably come up with. One example might be “12 Ways to Prevent Your WordPress Website from Being Hacked.”

If you want your white paper to apply to a specific group of people, you can add them as a subtitle.  So, following on our example above, we might gear this specific white paper to people who aren’t very tech-savvy.  We could add “Even if You’re a Complete Blogging Beginner.”

Then, simply go about writing each point — editing along the way if you come up with more or less.

The issue here is that if you don’t research your facts and figures or you simply rehash what’s already known about the subject, your users aren’t going to find you to be an authority on the subject at all. If anything, they’ll feel like you completely wasted their time.

That’s why a more traditional white paper may be the way to go, particularly if you’re targeting enterprise users who expect more facts and figures.

To do this, first write down the main benefit your product or service offers. This gives you a foundation of context that you can use to find supporting evidence that backs up your benefit and makes it stand out as the only real solution in the reader’s mind.

Remember that you’re writing about the main benefit to the reader — the more urgent it is that they act, the better. Above all else, don’t mention your product or service. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you want the audience to make that connection in their own minds, rather than you telling them.

Polish off your white paper with a call-to-action that gets them involved and active with what you have to offer, be it a demo, a free sample or a webinar. Whatever it is, your white paper should act as the next logical step in the buyer’s decision-making process.

Case studies, which fall into the same broad category as white papers, are handled a bit differently. The Content Marketing Institute reported, in their 2014 B2B Small Business Content Marketing Report, that case studies were the most effective means of marketing to businesses.

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The fact is, people want to see where your product has excelled. They want clear, definitive proof that you can do the same for them. So, how can you deliver? Let’s take a closer look.

First, case studies don’t need to be flashy. According to the Eccolo report referenced above, people overwhelmingly prefer plain text case studies to other varieties like slides or videos. Your case study can be 500 words or 1500 words – as long as it gets to the point in a way that’s free of fluff and filler.

Use your case study to tell a story. Your company is the hero, the problem the customer faced is the villain and the customer themselves could be viewed as the damsel-in-distress. Maybe traditional methods didn’t work to help rescue that damsel. Maybe you had to go about it a different way. Tell the story and share the triumphant results that you got for your client.

Share the tools that you used. When was there a turning point and what happened to lead up to it? It’s possible your damsel-in-distress isn’t just sitting on their hands, either. If they tried other solutions before yours, it’s important to mention that.

From that point, tell how the customer was able to implement your product or service and the results that they got. Ideally share the before and after of things like productivity, split testing or other key indicators important to your audience.

Most of the points that I’ve covered so far appeal primarily to visual or hands-on learners. But, the next and final content repurposing idea is absolute bliss for the auditory learner. Interviews and podcasts are excellent ways to connect with your audience, even when they can’t be at their computer.

Repurposing Content as a Podcast

Reworking your content to fit a podcast format doesn’t have to be overwhelming. After all, you’re not creating your own radio show (at least, not at first!). There are some technical considerations to keep in mind, however:

First, choose a good microphone. A USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer is an ideal choice (Blue makes some good ones). A pop filter (to help cut down on breathing sounds, particularly with B’s and P’s) is also a good investment and can be had for as little as $5.

You’ll also want proper recording software. Audacity is good and it’s free. It lets you record a variety of different audio files and formats and has some good tools for noise reduction and other common issues that scream “amateur.”

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Audacity is a very popular sound editing program

If you want to add a more professional touch, you can invest in a variety of other hardware (like a mixer) and software tools (like Pro Tools or Adobe Audition).  But, for the purposes of this guide, we’re all about getting up and running quickly.

Once you have the tools, how do you go about repurposing your content to fit a podcast format?

Well, there is no concrete formula to follow on what makes a good podcast. Remember that you will need consent from the artist if you want to play their song or video on your podcast. Free music can be had from sites like FreeSound.org, which provides licensed sound effects and field recordings.

Otherwise, consider points like the length of the podcast and the script. If you’ll be interviewing someone else, go over the types of questions that you’ll ask them, in advance – so there are no surprises.

If you’re feeling nervous, why not invite a colleague to speak about your particular niche or industry? Someone you know who would be delighted at the extra exposure while giving you a chance to hone your podcasting chops.

Above all, rework your content in a way that will make people want to listen to you to learn more. Be funny. Be clever. Be interesting. There are plenty of cooking podcasts, but how many podcasts show you how to create amazing 4-course dinners using only 7 ingredients?

If you think you have the foundation for a regular podcasting show, take the time to record a series – but don’t publish it yet. Can you keep the momentum going after the first week or the second? How about the sixth or seventh week? Some of the most interesting shows run out of steam after the fourth or fifth week, because the podcast owner failed to plan ahead.

Take the time to formulate a podcast plan with just as much attention as you would a really good blog post. Planning ahead also gives you a bit of a buffer for times when your creative muse is “out to lunch.”

Conclusion

Now that you have several ideas on ways to repurpose your content, it’s time to make a workable plan of action. Take the time to decide which content works well on different platforms and for which type of learner. Then, take to the airwaves, the blogosphere or the digital canvas, make your points and spread the word.

Not every piece of content will be worth repurposing in every possible way.  But, for those that do, you may very well reach a whole new audience that can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with next.

So, what content are you going to repurpose?

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