When Fergus Henderson opened his restaurant, St. John, in London in 1995 it adopted the philosophy that when it came to meat, “it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast.” And so a new wave of cooking, dining, and eating came into being — one where no part of the animal is wasted. Twenty years after Henderson opened St. John, the way we as creative professionals and content producers view our online projects can borrow a lot from his philosophy.
Applesaucing, a Definition
Your published content as metaphor, if you will.
It takes time to grow an apple tree from seed. That’s your site and your brand. In time it bears you a large harvest of fruit of different shapes and sizes — these are your blog posts, podcasts, videos, and everything else. You sell the biggest, roundest, rosiest apples and use the leftovers to make apple pies. Or apple cider, or you bake apple biscuits and use the husks and residue even once more to make apple butter, or sell it off to make apple Fig Newtons or Apple Jacks cereal. In time, you’ve utilised every last piece of fruit from your tree. This is applesaucing; finding new ways to use — and reuse — your published content.
Who’s Making Applesauce Lately?
Cat Rose, a past guest on The Busy Creator Podcast and a graphic designer, illustrator and founder of The Creative Introvert online community, looks at her created content and thinks “how can I repurpose this to serve my audience better?” constantly seeking newer forms for her information. She is aware, especially from running a community of creative introverts, how creatives can struggle with self-promotional; many of us tend to steer away from creating our own podcasts and videos and from public speaking, preferring to be “protected by our computer screens”. Cat has turned this into an opportunity, building a presence and brand with Creative Introvert which takes in a blog, Facebook group, Instagram and Pinterest imagery, meet-ups, and the “alchemy” of her community network that travels beyond her own graphic design business and online courses.
Mignon Fogarty, aka “Grammar Girl”, is well known as a podcaster, but also an accomplished writer, publisher, and university professor. This experience also allows her to see the “power in networks”. While Applesaucing can make for an immediate increase in traffic to your online content, it is perhaps in building communities and networks where it can deliver the most, and bring longer-term, long-tail results. An audience that feels at home will more than likely return and build a new level of trust with the creator or brand.
“People appreciate having simple material in whatever format is convenient for them.” — Mignon Fogarty
For Mignon (by the way, don’t call her “Professor Fogarty!”), the information at the heart of her content is key, and finding new ways to repackage it for her audience is essential. She’s discovered that “people appreciate having simple material in whatever format is convenient for them”; her podcast, being a scripted show, translates immediately into lengthy and useful blog posts, which in turn are “great for SEO” and drive more visits to her sites. She often uses grammar tips from her newsletters or books as start-off points for podcasts, and says that, when it comes to content, “nothing that I’ve done hasn’t been used two or three times”.
Internet entrepreneur and creator of Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn is a master of repurposing content across different channels. His output runs the gamut, including blogging, podcasts, an online video series, social media, e-books, slideshows, infographics, exclusive email and user content, and speaking events, all enjoyed by a community 150,000 members strong. Every element fits seamlessly together to create an online presence that is completely Pat. Part of his brand is sharing his knowledge and experiences, even if they’ve been transformed through the internet. In a recent blog post, Pat illustrates with an infographic how, with time, content can be repurposed (or “sawdusted” as he calls it) from a blog through podcasts, social media, slideshows and even a live stream to create maximum exposure and traffic. Infographics like this are easy to refer to, and very shareable indeed.
(Side note: woodworkers, such as past TBC Podcast guest Matt Cremona, will use their own sawdust on a project where they need arises to match a wood sample’s hue exactly. Sawdust mixed with an epoxy resin — or even with glue — can patch a hole or scratch so seamlessly it’s all but imperceptible in the final piece. Alternatively, sawdust can be collected in aggregate and used to make MDF, or other wood by-products, or used for animal bedding, industrial purposes and building materials, as a fertilizer, or as biofuel. Sawdust can even be used as a cleaning product, for an oil spill in your garage, or for the inevitable beer and mud that might otherwise cover the floor of your local pub. This metaphor also works.)
Counter-intuitively, perhaps, for a podcast based on grammar and writing, Mignon has, like Pat, discovered that original imagery builds credibility and traffic for her podcast episodes in previously untapped arenas such as Pinterest. There is a space online for well-created visuals alongside thought-provoking words. Combined, these might form an infographic or illustrated summary of an article.
At the more commercial end of things, brands such as the online men’s fashion store Mr. Porter, are making daily applesauce by repurposing content through a myriad of portals as a powerful selling tool. Their main website, although ostensibly a web-shop, is the home of a weekly lifestyle journal, daily tips and Top 10s, advice, style guides and editorials and interviews, all aimed directly at the type of man their customer sees himself as.
For Mr. Porter, cooking tips, exclusive fitness videos, and travel guides, for example, are repurposed as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter posts and into direct emails, which by emphasises the aspirational image of their customers reinforces the Mr. Porter brand. All communications link back to the store, which works as a useful selling tool. Twice yearly, to correspond with the fashion seasons, Mr. Porter even wraps up its exclusive content into a printed newspaper, which is mailed — the old-fashioned way — to customers.
Spoken-word poet, rapper, record label boss, club promoter, video director, actor, podcaster, media mogul and author, Scroobius Pip, uses his multi-faceted on- and offline presence in a less commercial but equally successful way. His Distraction Pieces Network has a range of shows to serve multiple interests, from his own podcasts to other titles covering subjects like wrestling or the role of drugs in society. His audience is constantly updated with Instagram images, tweets and Facebook posts, and the podcasts are trailed and referenced across the network. Recently, Pip has turned highlights from the podcasts into a book and used the UK-wide promotional tour to record meet-the-public events for future podcasts. He’s going one step further and somehow re-planting the same applesauce for next year’s crop!
Audiences Love Applesauce
The way we consume information is ever evolving. Cat Rose wonders if “people are reading less but listening and watching more,” hinting at a rirse for podcasts and videos over the more traditional long forms of blogs and articles. The Busy Creator founder Prescott Perez-Fox believes that the web is “still mostly a written medium,” where content is primarily driven by what it says, and thus the written word is not going anywhere, but video and audio have indeed arrived to supplement it.
“People are reading less but listening and watching more.” — Cat Rose
Audiences remain complex and sophisticated in the way that they interact with content. Top Forty radio celebrates singles, but some music fans still prefer Greatest Hits albums and boxed sets. A poster or print may become a hit on Pinterest, but there will always be retrospective art shows and compendium books to match. These days, we listen to podcasts in transit or while exercising, read long-form articles during quieter, slower moments such as vacation, and fill the our day-to-day with the fast-food bites of top-ten articles and animated gifs.
Any observer will note the rise in mobile phone use over the past ten years. To older generations, it may seem monstrous to read an 8,000-word article on a 4-inch screen while riding the bus, but this is the way of things now. Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn, knows statistics. Data shows that more and more podcasts are downloaded to a mobile device than ever before, overtaking the percentage of downloads to a computer. But there’s more to the story. Those mobile downloads are mostly new listeners; existing fans who use a desktop workflow are still there, set in their ways. We, as creators, should look for ways to take advantage of new media and methods while not overlooking the old ones. In most casesm they haven’t much changed.
Mobile downloads are mostly new listeners; existing fans who use a desktop workflow are still there, set in their ways.
As individual creators or for the brands we work for, we should aim to create a more extensive, fully-formed, multi-media presence. We have the opportunity to reach more people, but only by translating our message and bringing it to them. Producing the world’s best documentary film, for example, is quite noble, but someone who only reads web comics might never see it.
Although Applesaucing ultimately means more time and investment for any creator, on the whole it appears worth it, for the extra exposure and wider audience it will bring. Mignon Fogarty enjoys the experimental aspect, trying out new ways of packaging-up her content and seeing if it is “worth doing”. But she also cautions that “if you want to grow” you may need “people to help”. Cat Rose has discovered an audience who, though they share certain personality traits do not share a single learning style, and thus appreciate different versions of content. Pat Flynn has used repurposing to appear with an appropriate, timely resource for his audience. Douglas Davis, author of Creative Strategy and the Business of Design, wrote his book largely based on the results of his conferences talks and online classes — that’s basically an entire book applesauced!
Jordan Harbinger, founder of The Art of Charm, recently remarked on his late arrival to YouTube and the almost-immediate success his podcast-episodes-as-videos have had there. Some publishers have breathed new life into old articles simply by reposting them to their original platform using a tool like Buffer or MeetEdgar.
Lifehack.org is an online “source for tips to help improve all aspects of your life” and their lists of “Twelve this” or “Eight that” are most probably familiar to anyone who spends anytime on the web. But Lifehack is primarily a community of authors, bloggers and editors who come together to share their own experiences and useful, easy-to-digest web morsels. They want their content, like their tips, to be “surprisingly easy” and encourage audience participation, whether by authoring, by commenting on or rating posts, or answering pop-up questions. The to-the-point articles are perfect for inserting in social media posts, and have also become the go-to for many established newspapers, media and magazines.
How To Proceed
Applesaucing could very well be the key to growing an online presence, a powerful tool that allows the audience to choose how they digest content. For creators such as Grammar Girl, it means their site and published media become a go-to place for trusted, up-to-date information on grammar and writing. For communities like The Creative Introvert, it brings a holistic sense of togetherness by weaving common themes through disparate parts.
We here at The Busy Creator are continually experimenting with specific techniques and approaches to connect with creative pros and help them become more creative and more productive. Here are few repurposing workflows you can try with your existing material:
- In addition to your own site, publish articles to LinkedIn and Medium — this literally entails copy-pasting and uploading the same images. Share links with Slack teams and forum groups where a larger body of articles is collected.
- Make quote cards to be used in social media. These are a great way to lead back to a longer form blog post, or directly to a website.
- Publish the audio from your podcast episodes as videos on YouTube. Go one step further by adding the transcript to that same episode as subtitles in the video. You’d be surprised at how many people “just have YouTube on” in the background of life (the way we did with MTV a generation ago).
- Sum up a blog post into a slideshow with one major point on each page. Publish this to SlideShare and post on business-oriented sites like LinkedIn.
- Look for common themes within several articles or episodes. Write a case study or field report based on these patterns and trends.
- Hire an editor to create a highlight reel or trailer of your videos. This can serve both as a way to entice new viewers, but also as brand promotion more generally. Even if no one clicks through today, they’ll be instantly aware of what your show is about.
- Pull quotes from your blog post, or audio script, and highlight them in your Twitter feed. You can also sprinkle them with hashtag-dust.
- Take the main, salient, points from your article or podcast and distil them into a top ten list and offer it to sites or blogs that cover the subject, with a link back to your original content. The internet loves top ten lists.
- Create an infographic or “illustrated article” image for posting on Pinterest.
- Use one or more of your content pieces as the basis for a discussion, or speech, at a conference or event. Work to create your own event if you can’t find the right one for your chosen field. (Even better if you can team up with someone to share the load.)
- Use Facebook Live or Twitter for a Q&A session about your field. This is a simple and straightforward way to demonstrate your knowledge, to grow your community, and you can use it to publish links to any relevant content you’ve already created. This may likely inform some future posts as well; chances are the same questions are common to a wider audience, even if only a single person is asking today.
- Consider if there is a way you can use your content, and your own expertise, to educate your community. People want to learn new skills and information and, whether paid or unpaid, online tutorials strengthen a community.
Share Your Findings
Have you found success repurposing your original articles, podcasts, videos, and other work online? Does your audience’s preference for a specific format surprise you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This article, co-authored with Steve Voyce, first appeared on The Busy Creator, a website and podcast showcasing the tools, techniques, and habits creative pros can use to become their most creative, productive selves. Steve Voyce is an Amsterdam-based freelance writer with over twenty years experience in advertising and marketing, who readily admits he should be doing more to repurpose his content. His site is thewritevoyce.com