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Creating a Blogging Strategy For Your New Magazine

Repurposing archive content is one good way to populate blog pages, but how does a new magazine do that when, by definition, they have no archive? There are ways, writes Amanda MacArthur, by which new publishers can successfully blog from day one.

By Amanda MacArthur

Have you ever seen content spun into gold? Picture someone in a hazmat suit in some dank basement, complete with eye goggles and a breathing mask, blowing the dust off the covers of old magazine covers. That's me every day. Sorting through old stories and trying to make them new again online … attempting to make them gold in the eyes of web readers and search engines.

In reality, there's no magazine-stuffed basement brimming with stacks of glossy paper and thick-spined special editions, because most legacy publishers have digital editions of even their earliest issues.

But hypothetically, sure, I've been deep in that basement of content for years. Did you even know there was a profession of people who "dust off" the most evergreen goodies from twenty years ago, and recycle them into search-optimised blog content? For example, gardening tips stand the test of time. Hair styling tips too. Also, sailing techniques.

Over the past five years, have you noticed brands transforming into publishers? Suddenly every product brand has a blog. And they publish. A lot. In fact, one reason publishers are having trouble keeping advertisers, is because advertisers are now publishers too. They have their own blogs. And publishers who don't understand blogging, and who don't expand their ad packages to include online components like native advertising on their blogs, are not filling ad spots as easily as they once did.

One huge advantage legacy magazine publishers have on the brands out there, is their archive of content. When publishers moved to the web, a golden treasure chest of material suddenly appeared as content assets they thought they'd never see again.

But the brands out there who are running hugely successful blogs, didn't have content when they started. Neither did the legacy publishers when they started. And unless your new magazine is launching from the archives of a now defunct magazine you bought, then you're in the same boat – starting from scratch.

Not to worry though, like most delicious recipes, sometimes starting from scratch is the best way. It's more work, indeed, but strategy starts from the ground up which will provide a great structure for the future.

Create an Archive from Scratch Before Launch

One strategy my colleague Don Nicholas (CEO and lead consultant of Mequoda, a guy you want to know if you're a niche publisher) suggests, is that new publishers launch with a year, or at the least, six months of blog content on the site. And not just any blog content, but daily content, depending on your niche.

And for the next year, while you're publishing your first year of magazine content, use the existing blog content you launched with, and recycle it. After a year-long embargo on your premium magazine content, begin recycling that content into the blog.

From your feature magazine content, create shorter content for the blog. A 3000-word article is excerpted into three 600-800 word articles for your blog. Not enough to give away the cow, but sufficient enough to satisfy the reader and add a call to action for your magazine.

Speaking of calls to action, don't forget to promote your magazine. You can promote it through a text ad in the middle of the article, or the bottom of your post telling the reader which article and issue the content came from … and suggesting they subscribe.

How to Create Content for Your Blog

The content on your blog will come from two sources: your magazine, and original content created specifically for your blog. As a new magazine without years of archives, produce original content that can satisfy at least a five-day schedule.

Using magazine content: Unless your content is seasonal (like flowers) or has a time limit on relevancy (like finance), create an embargo on your content for the first year. For example, don't excerpt content from your January issue until the next January. This restriction will prevent subscribers from feeling like you're giving their content away right after you processed their credit card, but will give new blog readers a hint of what they'd get if they were subscribers.

Excerpt content by taking 500 words from the magazine, and then writing another 300 words of original content - add 150 words to the introduction, and 150 words to the close.

* Your introduction is where you make the excerpt make sense as a stand-alone piece of content.

* Your close is where you call for comments, and write an in-line call to action for your magazine or a related free download.

Tip: Ask your editors to submit three blog posts with every print article they provide - their magazine article divided into three posts that may have slightly different intros and subtitles to make most sense independent of the rest of the article.

Creating new content: New content, although more time consuming, is wonderful because the sky is your limit. That is, unless you publish a space or science magazine, in which case your limit is even higher.

To start strategizing new content, take a look at your blog categories. For example, The Woodworker magazine has 24 blog categories on their site, like clock-making, construction techniques, musical instrument projects, and carving techniques.

To plan out their editorial calendar, for the next 24 publishing days, they can cycle through each category. If they publish six days a week, they can complete one publishing cycle in four weeks. So within one month, they are creating content for every single one of their categories, filling each one out evenly.

This process will answer a lot of questions for you, too. For example, do you want to write about every single category? Are some less interesting than others to write about, or could one be bundled into a different category? Over time, you might also find that there are a few categories including posts that don't get enough website traffic or social shares to warrant writing about in the future.

If you also sell paid books or other products, you might consider creating one for each category. That way when you're promoting your daily blog posts in daily email newsletters, you'll always have a relevant featured product to promote. If not, promote your magazine, but be warned that if your magazine is the only product you have, your readers will fatigue of those promotions more quickly.

Prepare Your Blog Content for the Long Haul

Evergreen blog posts – ones with content that still make sense and are relevant years from now – are the best types to write. Even if you publish celebrity gossip, you can produce posts about different celebrity waxing techniques, or how to make a fishtail braid, or the best recipes from the latest celebrity diet … all topics that never go out of style.

When publishing evergreen articles on your blog, make sure they're about topics people are actually looking for. Google's AdWords tool will tell you how many people per month are searching for certain keywords. Just type in the topic you want to write about, and they'll tell you which terms to use in your titles and within your copy so that you have a chance of ranking in Google and getting hundreds, maybe thousands of hits per month to your search-optimised article.

Since you're a publisher, and you have high standards for your content, you'll naturally be SEO-friendly because you're publishing high-quality content. But using keywords within your title and copy will help Google and other search engines determine where to place you in their search results. Without them, you might be a sailing magazine and write one paragraph about tomatoes, and suddenly be ranked for tomatoes. People searching for posts about tomatoes, might not be the right audience you're trying to attract, because young grasshopper, you don't write about tomatoes, you write about sailing.

Instead, writing a post that has a title like ‘how to cope with seasickness,’ a blog title extracted directly from Sailing Today's magazine website, might attract the right type of reader … and for that matter, subscriber.

Other aspects of search optimisation, beyond quality content, is the length of your article. 800 words is pretty sturdy, and you'll improve SEO of the other blog posts on your site if you link to at least three of them contextually within your content. Finally, social media plays a big role in the search optimisation of blog posts for your magazine.

If you blog and nobody reads it, does it make a sound? No, no it doesn't, it truly does not make a single sound. So don't create new blog content without the intention of sharing it. Even your loyal subscribers won't visit your blog unless you tell them to … through a tweet, a Facebook post, or an email newsletter. In fact, create a social media strategy that aligns with your blog editorial calendar.

Ending the Byline Debate on Recycled Blog Content

One client I work with swaps bylines like pieces of candy on a kindergarten bus. Bylines are not sacred to their editors. In fact, editors know that their content will be excerpted online, and that when it is, their excerpts may be combined with ones from other writers to create a more robust online article. When this occurs, the editor who contributed the most excerpted content to the post, gets the byline. The team all seems fine with this arrangement because their byline stays sacred in print.

This is the arrangement I'd suggest for any new magazine - making it clear that their content may be recycled into the blog, and that you may use a brand as the byline, like ‘The Elle UK Team’, or may even use someone else's when the occasion warrants it.

If you get pushback, some publishers include a "so and so contributed to this post" secondary byline at the bottom of the post.

Either way, bylines are a bump in the road to figure out before you launch, rather than afterwards.

And before that bump come the ultimate speedbumps - content.

Start a magazine without it, and you'll never be able to keep up. However, launch with some evergreen, search-optimised blog content in your back pocket and your new magazine will quickly become a legitimate competitor in your niche.