Using Your Archives to Get Revenue and Leads

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I asked Amanda MacArthur, co-founder and content director of Lantern Content Marketing, last year if publishers "forget" their old content too quickly?

"I don't think publishers are forgetful—maybe too over-protective. Mequoda's rule is that you wait at least 90-180 days before releasing any content from behind your paywall. After that, the content can become much more valuable when you make it free. Articles can be optimized for search, and you can begin to send new traffic to your website with each article you release."

Things may be a bit late-summer slow, so this could be a good time to make use of your archives. Here are some ways:

1. Curate in book form. "Beyond including it in our subscription, one of our most successful approaches for generating revenue from Harvard Business Review's archive has been curating it in book form," said Ania Wieckowski, senior editor of Branded Lines for HBR. The e-audiobook category is so popular that the Association of American Publishers cited it as "the fastest growing format" in a new report last month. "Our 'branded lines' team now publishes 10+ books per year in a number of different series. Each series offers up our archive content for a different purpose or reader."

2. Gamify content. The Atlantic Life Timeline, sponsored by National Geographic, invites readers to "explore your life in history. Tell us your birthday, and we'll show you how the world has changed during your lifetime." The National Archives posted a quiz for Black History Month. The questions aren't easy: Who was the first African American Senator of the United States? Who was the first female self-made millionaire in the United States? At the end you have to enter your email to see your results and get "fun and infrequent updates."

3. See what content has performed best and repost. "People forget about 90% of what they read after 12 weeks," said Luis Hernandez, managing editor/head of audience development for InvestorPlace Media. "Check your analytics and repeat your most popular posts every quarter." Added MacArthur: "You don't need to be creating new content all the time. You can simply recycle older content and optimize it for the web and SEO. We live in Google Analytics and a variety of other tools to see where new traffic is coming from, and whether [that traffic is] staying."

4. You've heard Restaurant Week; try Special Content Week. Wieckowski said that some of HBR's "most successful efforts have been around 'unlocking' an archive article from behind our paywall for a week, and touting that it's free for non-subscribers for a limited time. We've seen a lot of clicks to those articles, good engagement (time on page), and also conversions to subscription from that program."

5. Repeat your evergreen content, maybe changing the lead and/or headline. Summer reading lists. Working from home. Spring cleaning (out your email). Things to Be Thankful for at Thanksgiving. At the start of our conferences, I'll update and publish Making the Most of Attending Live Events and always hear from a grateful publisher who is sending someone new. Magna Publications has an article titled Five Things to Do on the First Day of Class that continues to resonate with their audience.

6. Make access to your archives a valued commodity. In 2012 Harvard Business Publishing made the decision to open archive access to subscribers on and haven't looked back. "We heard people recognized [back] issues by covers, so we started posting images of covers [to help them find key content]," said Emily Neville-O'Neill, associate director of product at HBR. "We saw a 20% increase in subscription revenue right away."

7. Dig for historic value. Your institutional memory doesn't deserve to be forgotten. There's a good chance you have old publications with significant value, just sitting on shelves—print or digital—somewhere in a makeshift morgue. (I know I do. Who remembers Hotline?) It might be worth doing a little digitization work every once in a while to ensure that this info isn't getting lost?" Republish old ads and photos occasionally. "On this day 10 years ago..." We love nostalgia.

8. Update and share on social media. At Vox, they take articles that are months old, but still have plenty of juice in them. "In a five-day period, we ran 88 of these stories, and collectively they brought in over 500,000 readers," executive editor Matthew Yglesias said last year.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…