Publishers succeed because their content provides an audience with value.
But content has a cost. It takes time and money to create. For publishers, that means the cost of commissioning a story. For solo creators, it’s the time needed to write, produce and edit.
To be successful, the value of your content needs to be greater than the cost.
Chances are you aren’t publishing hundreds of stories a day with million-dollar budgets like the New York Times. Your content volume will always be limited by time and money.
Rather than constantly creating new content, publishers and creators should extend the lifetime value of their content.
To extend your content value, it’s helpful to understand what constitutes your “content”.
Uniqueness + Structure = Content
I’m not here to say this is the only definition of content. Many smarter people than myself have tackled this. But I like to think of content as two things:
You need something unique for your audience.
Uniqueness could be a unique idea or opinion. Maybe it’s your tone or outlook. It could be research or proprietary data. Over time, it may even be your brand.
The structure is how your unique content is delivered.
Articles, podcasts, videos, tweets, all of this is the packaging of your content, what I call structure.
Non-unique content provides no audience value; no content structure means your audience cannot consume it.
Extending your content’s value starts with understanding and altering your structure.
Historical Structure of Content
Historically, an article was published in a newspaper. That newspaper was delivered to a reader. Physically holding the newspaper was the only way to consume it.
Radio was the same. You had to be listening to the station to hear it.
The lifetime value of your content was extremely limited due to its structure.
Unless you hoarded the New York Times or manually recorded radio shows, content structure based on a moment of physical connection, prevented people from consuming it later.
Then came the Internet…
Current Value of Content
The Internet changes this dynamic in an important way - the value of content over time is extended.
Audiences’ consumption is no longer limited to physically holding a bulky paper, or listening to the radio at a specific time.
Content now exists in an easily accessible form. Theoretically, anyone can find a song or an article, and consume it any time.
But this isn’t how most content works.
Internet Limits Content Value
Once the article is published, there’s an initial spike in readership. It’s new, newsworthy and your audience reads it. The content is shared on social media, over email, and is accessible on your homepage
But as you publish more content, the value of old content declines. The newness disappears, it’s pushed deeper into your website and published less frequently on your social channels.
Your content continues to exist, but fewer people read it. The value of your content declines the longer you have it.
The uniqueness of it doesn’t change. But the structure, in the form of an article, makes it harder to consume.
Increasing Content Value With Longevity
So how do publishers increase the value of their content over time without changing the underlying unique value? By changing its structure to extend discoverability.
Content structure optimized for longevity is colloquially referred to as evergreen.
It means that content is valuable and pertinent to your audience, no matter the time it’s published.
An article covering a one-day robbery isn’t evergreen, it’s a one-day hit.
But the decades-long increase in poverty that led to increased crime is evergreen. It’s pertinent to your audience far longer after the publish date.
As long as the topic is evergreen, the value of content can be lengthened by changing the structure.
Different content structures are optimized for longevity. Let’s use the example above of poverty and crime statistics.
If the article is long enough, it could be split into an educational email course, delivered over a week.
It could be turned into an audio version with an affordable tool like Play.ht and published on your podcast feed.
A newer story could be written that expands on the original story, giving you an easy reason to link back to it.
You could run a video Q/A with your audience on the report, turning it into bite-sized video clips distributed over a week that link back to that story.
All of these structural changes extend the lifetime value of your content, reducing the need for producing additional stories, saving you time and money.
If you enjoyed this story and want more like it, please consider sharing so others can discover it.
Members-Only Case Study
Part two of this post is how this strategy is used at my publication Passage.
I’ll be sharing the different ways we extend content value, one small change we made to recover 100% of our content’s cost in one day, and a behind-the-scenes look at the results.
To access this story, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber.
Subscribers get access to members-only posts, as well as shortened summary notes of my interviews.