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Why I Steal Content (And Why You Should, Too)

This guest post is by Adam Costa of Trekity.com.

I have a confession to make: for the past few years I’ve stolen content. Lots of it.

It’s not something I’m proud of. Hell, I’ve never admitted it to anyone besides my wife (and she’s an even bigger thief than me).

But this painful truth must come out, and—rather than see my dirty laundry exposed by someone else—I’d like to be the one to declare it publicly.

I am a thief. Worse… I’m a plagiarizer!

I have stolen content and used it for my own evil purposes. And if you’ve been around here long enough (or read my content elsewhere) chances are you’ve read been exposed to my crimes of passion.

“Passion?” you say. “How could this possibly be considered passion… when all you’re doing is stealing from other writers? Stealing from writers who shed blood, sweat and caffeine to put out the best content possible? What’s wrong with you, man?”

In my defense…

I would argue that stealing content is not only commonplace, it’s a smart business strategy. But please don’t misunderstand me.

I’m not saying you should hijack other people’s content and pass it off as your own. Nor should you mindlessly repeat whatever the “hot tip” of the day is.

No. You do need to create new, interesting and—above all—unique content.

Sometimes, at least. But if you’re reinventing the wheel with every post, you’re overlooking an absolute goldmine of content. One which you can ethically steal, and use for your own nefarious purposes.

But before I tell you where this goldmine is, I must make another confession.

It’s not as bad as the first. In fact, it may help you understand why I’m doing this. You see…

I’ve only stolen from one person

Myself. And you know what? I don’t mind at all.

Remember the goldmine? The one I promised to reveal? Well, that goldmine is every piece of content you’ve already produced. It’s all sitting there—buried deep in your archives—waiting to be brought to light again.

Why you should steal, too

The truth is, if you’re using your content once, you’re wasting your time. Remember that post you wrote about Thailand? Why not turn it into a video? Why not create a slideshow? Why not drip feed content through Twitter?

Seriously, what’s stopping you? Maybe you think you don’t have time. Or don’t know where to start.

Well listen up, buckaroo. Reusing old content takes less time than creating new content. And it reaches a different audience (some people love video, others prefer to read … why not engage them all?). Recycling content actually saves you time.

Here’s how to start

Below are 19 popular forms of content:

  1. articles
  2. social media updates
  3. blog posts
  4. enewsletters
  5. case studies
  6. in-person events
  7. videos
  8. white papers
  9. webinars
  10. microsites
  11. print magazines
  12. traditional media
  13. research reports (white papers)
  14. branded content tools
  15. ebooks
  16. tweets
  17. Pinterest updates
  18. podcasts
  19. mobile-specific content

Chances are, you’re only using one of these forms for each piece of content you product. Shame on you. Look at the above list—you could easily recycle a single piece of content into five or more different forms.

Examples of recycled content

Here are just a few examples to get you started:

  • blog post >> video >> podcast >> enewsletter >> series of tweets >> print magazine
  • ten blog posts >> ebook >> podcast >> microsite
  • images in blog post >> Pinterest >> ebook >> slideshow >> photography site (e.g. Flickr)
  • interview >> slideshow >> video >> transcription in blog post with images >> images added to Pinterest
  • live presentation >> video >> podcast >> blog post.

3 Unique ways to recycle content

1. Umapper

Umapper lets you easily customize maps. You can add images, annotations and video within your maps.

For example, let’s say you write a post on BBQ joints in Austin, Texas. With Umapper, you could create a map with each restaurant pinpointed with annotations and add video of each restaurant showing shots of the food.

2. Dipity

Dipity helps you create cool looking timelines (check out this one on Russian history) with zero programming or design skills. Have you written a post that flows in chronological order? Add it—along with images—to Dipity. Then embed the timeline on your own site underneath your existing post (or create a new page altogether).

3. Many Eyes

Many Eyes, which was created by IBM, helps you visualize data in new and exciting ways. It’s also a great way to “steal” public data and create something valuable.

How? For example, you use the average travel expenditure by country and create a chart like this one.

So if you’re already sitting on old content, break open these tools and start creating more valuable content in less time. After all, the future depends on what we do in the present.

Okay, I stole that line. From Gandhi. Sorry about that.

Adam Costa is Editor in Chief of Trekity.com, a new kind of travel website. †You can also follow him on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Alice Coaxum says:

    Great post! Many times there are jewels left behind that can be “stolen” or repurposed. This is something I will be doing more of.

  2. Rick says:

    I’ve worked for a marketing company blogging for 5 years. The products we promote, well I don’t actually get to test them first hand most of the time. I end up doing lots of “research”, meaning I read articles on trade sites and other blogs, and base my posts off those (probably 90% of the time). I never outright “steal” content, I always quote where a direct sentence comes from. I always give credit for images (I just honestly forgot to once two years ago, the photographer still sends me hate emails), and I always form my own opinion of the products displayed. Se yes, we all “steal” in a sense, so long as we give credit where it’s due (and link back) I don’t feel like I/we are hurting anyone.

    • Adam Costa says:

      Hi Rick,

      Of course – there are two kinds of “stealing”… the good kind, and the bad kind. Sounds like you’re doing the good kind ;)

  3. Johanna says:

    To begin with I didn’t get where this post was going and I was intrigued! Your ideas and suggestions for recycling content in a unique way as well as using different tools to do so was really helpful. Great for travel blogging – I’m going to get to it! Thanks!

  4. Adam Costa says:

    Hi Guys,

    I’m here to answer any questions you have. Lemme know your thoughts here in the comments!

    -Adam

  5. Tim Barnes says:

    Thanks for the link to Dipity. I never thought of using a timeline before but it makes since. There are things that Baby Boomers can do before they reach Medicare age that will save them some serious coin. I have tried to think of a way to communicate to them that they need to avoid procrastination. I never thought of recycling old warnings as a timeline. I need to play around with that idea in the next few days.

    • Adam Costa says:

      You can do a lot in that market.

      For example, compare two timelines: the first shows a responsible Boomer, while the other shows someone who slacks off. At the end, show the total savings difference to drive your point home.

  6. Ric says:

    Hey!
    Got to say that for a moment there, in the intro paragraphs, you almost lost me! But very interesting article! I specially appreciate the use of examples and the pretty interesting websites there. Will sure check them out, specially to try and create a map.

    Cheers!

  7. Although I’ve not been at the point yet where I’ve needed to include a timeline or anything majorly editorial into my blog, I’ll certainly check Dipity out since I do complete a lot of timelines for my studies in school.

    The only content I’ve only used from external sources are quotes or informatics from Visual.ly, which are worth checking out.

  8. Spikes says:

    Very funny at the beginning, this is the good thing about attractive headlines. It draws you to come visit and the great content gets you reading. Besides, i like the idea,very insightful and original. Thanks for the info

    • Adam Costa says:

      I read somewhere that for every five people who read your headline, only one will read your post.

      So it better be good ;)

  9. Great tips! I’ll have to go back and see what I can find in my blog’s attic. There are a few topics that were too long for one post so I broke them up into a series of posts. I’ll have to see how I can repurpose them in their original long format as an ebook, podcast, and/or microsite.

    • Adam Costa says:

      As you can see, there are lots of things you can do – the trick is to set aside a few hours to actually do it. Good luck!

  10. This is an eye-opening post. Thank you very much for showing me how to bring my old posts alive. Sometimes, Ideas just go on vacation and I wonder how to bring it back, you’ve just made my day blissful with your unique idea. Thank you.

  11. Cece says:

    Absolutely! If you have a valauble message to share with people (ie: you have valuable content) you should definitely make it available in as many mediums as possible. Each medium speaks to people differently. Some people prefer video, others prefer audio, and some people still prefer the written word. Mix it up so your message “gets in” via each person’s favorite vehicle. We do this by mixing up a radio show with our blog and some videos etc. Oh…and thanks for the infographic link!

  12. Sean Chang says:

    Hi Adam. Great points and interesting analogy.

    And I must say I didn’t even think of using the tools you mentioned in your post. Thanks for the heads up.

    As a side note, I’ve found it can sometimes be even more efficient to get other people to ‘steal’ for you.

    i.e. Find volunteers to record down the video/audio of in-person events. After which, hire freelancers to edit the video, transcribe the audio file, format the transcript into an ebook and repackage presentation slides.

    All these materials can then be sold (event attendees often purchase the same content in different formats as well) or used for marketing purposes (share videos on youtube, audios on itunes, slides on slideshare, ebooks on docstoc etc.)

  13. I love those links…my blog is still very new, so I haven’t hit a point where I can recycle just yet, but bookmarked this page to remind what to do when it is time…thanks!

  14. Hi Adam, I did enjoy a lot your excellent article where we can find great information. Thank you for the job you did.

    • Adam Costa says:

      You’re welcome Maria – the key is to apply it. Don’t wait. Find your best stuff and repackage it in new, exciting ways.

  15. Bill says:

    I nearly had a heart attack when I read the headline for this post (excellent hook there Adam). Thanks for reminding me to reuse/re-appropriate some of my old posts.

  16. Never even thought of recycling articles into a series of tweets. Duh! Also need to use Flickr more and make some slideshows. Awesome tips!

    • Adam Costa says:

      You can even schedule your Tweets out ahead of time, so they drip feed over a series of weeks or months. It’s a great way to continuously deliver valuable content through a new medium.

  17. William says:

    Hey Adam excellent post about recycling old content and some proven software that would help make the job even faster. However, I like the old fashion way of recycling old content ie, no software, just good old brain power and ingenuity.
    If you are interested here are a few of my own proven steps to creating new content from old:

    1. 180 rewrite: Take the idea from your content and rewrite it as to debate your own content and link to it. This may cause a stir with your readers and maybe you will get more replies. You may want to use a fake pen name for that one.

    2. Turn your content into an faq. Frequently asked question are easy to scan and fast to read.

    3. create a top 10 list.

    4.Take your old content that you may have changed your point of view on and “Admit your mistake”. I love this one, because it allows you to become more real or human for your readers.

    5. Finally, re-write your content to become more “Ever Green”. It is far easier to edit than to create content from thin air. Take your dated content and remove all dates or edit an old tip or trick that has been over used or out dated. This works great for reviews, list post, or any content that is over a year old.

    I am just an old fashion writer and I find it easier to use my noggin than spend time learning to use software.
    Thanks for lending me your eye’s,
    William

    • Adam Costa says:

      Brain power and ingenuity are the base for everything worthwhile. I really like your ideas, especially #1 and #4 as they provide opposing views of your existing content. Plus, I argue with myself all the time ;)

  18. Noahs Dad says:

    Wow, this is great stuff. I was actually just trying to find a great way to make an interactive timeline for this milestone page, and I think dipity will be awesome.

  19. Brandon says:

    great post you are 100% right

  20. Amit Sharma says:

    Woah, that’s something out of box tips Adam Costa, and you are right, stealing content and representing it in our own form, our own way is a great way to give it a new look and new direction.

  21. Ocha says:

    I think the better word other than steeling comes from HGTV, repurpose. Oops, did I steel that? At any rate, great ideas to apply to any old stuff.

  22. The title brought me in; the concept is intriguing. I use several platforms to share information and never thought of re-purposing my content using every form. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be busy, but I bet the payoff will be great!

    Kimberly

  23. Hi,

    It’s true re-using your own content is very important and knowing what your best bit of content is, even better to re use. With Google updates think it is a good idea to see other ways to get content read or heard now.

    Thanks
    Dave

    • Adam Costa says:

      The more content the merrier. People enjoy different forms of media – this lets you quickly give it to them!

  24. I’m not so sure this is a good idea.

    What if you send yourself a DMCA notice. You might shut your own website down.

    I’d tread carefully, especially airing it in public where you might see the offending article.

    Jamie

  25. Stealing Content, On one side look easy work (Means: Takes others work update it, re-post it and works over). No i don’t think so because re-posting the same content in new way in the name of inspiration is not at all an good for upcoming bloggers.

    If upcoming blogger just steal and re-post it in an update version, then there will be not unique thinking in blogging.

    • Adam Costa says:

      Hi Irfan,

      You should never steal from other bloggers. All I suggest is taking your own high quality content and repackaging it in new ways. This lets you build your audience further without starting from scratch.

  26. Amanda Hill says:

    Loved this.. thanks…

  27. Bruce Barker says:

    One learns something new every day in the world of Blogging and Internet marketing! Adam…you have removed my blinkers with regard to my own content creation..thank you!

  28. Hi Adam great post, I do this all the time, Great headline by the way. You shouldn’t forget also that people learn differently, they get their information from different sources and three are many people who prefer a Podcast to reading a long article, you ever tried jogging while reading a 2000 word article on your laptop?

    Some people prefer videos so why not use old posts to create slide show videos. I have.

    Old blog posts with a common theme can easily become a free report and used as a lead magnet or edited into an email sequence. Maybe you are wanting to try guest blogging and you cannot think of what to write about, find that 2 month old post about ‘the benefits of affiliate marketing blogs for travellers’ and re vamp it. Hey Presto, new content for traffic generation, with little head scrathing.

    To me it just makes so much sense.
    Thanks again
    Andi

    • Adam Costa says:

      Andi,

      You make an excellent point: understand your market.

      Jogging? Unless I’m being chased by wild animals, I ain’t running anywhere – so when you mention podcasts when jogging, that’s something that would never occur to me to do.

      Which is why creating content in multiple forms is so important.

  29. Joan says:

    Good post. I like these ideas to repurpose old content. I use the “top 10″ for articles quite often. I’ll be checking out your links about timelines, etc. So much out there to learn and do to make blogs better – I’m still learning so much all the time I’m dizzy! :o)

  30. Efonda says:

    sir,it’s hard if every blogger makes a post that is different from the other bloggers posts. it’s becoming easier to recycle, but what about the core paragraph of the post? still the same right? maybe it’s not stealing, but the quote and it’s two different words.

  31. Great post! Many times there are jewels left behind that can be “stolen” or repurposed. This is something I will be doing more of.

  32. Gjivan says:

    Hey Adam,
    Firstly a huge thankx to you for this post especially the links you have provided of various tools. I am impressed by dipity and have make up my mind to use it. As far as slideshow is concerned, are u pointing towards slideshare???

  33. DiTesco says:

    Very clever title and don’t ask me why I came running here when I saw it, lol. Seriously, outstanding article. I for one have not been leveraring that much on the variety of forms that we can use to “create content”. Stealing our own content and turning it into other forms is definitely something that I can see doing and not only with it be a great time saver, at the very least I “think” I know it will be of good quality :)

    • Adam Costa says:

      That’s the key: start with quality content, then repackage.

      Monkey dung in a gold ribbon is still monkey dung ;)

  34. Great points. Content marketing is extremely important today, but it’s also difficult and time consuming. That’s why it’s important to take one idea and turn it into various pieces of content over time. This helps build a link portfolio but also attracts more target audience members since everyone has different preferences for how they want to receive information.

    • Adam Costa says:

      Oh yes, SEO benefits are huge. Larger audience, varying domains, etc. all provide more links and boost your site authority.

  35. Shalu Sharma says:

    Very interesting topic. When I first read your heading, I thought this can’t be. But if you really think deep enough, most of us do take some things from other places. It does not have to be a copy & past job, but think of it as an inspiration. There is nothing wrong in taking some inspiration for others. Thank you for mentioning Dipty, this is the first time I have head of time and looks promising.

  36. Dawn says:

    Great post! I was a little concerned in the beginning and had to read on! Great way to get people’s attention.
    I re-use old content often. Sometimes I have something more to add to it, say I learned a couple more tips about a subject I discussed a year or 2 ago. If the content is older, chances are it needs to be updated too. I like the idea of turning it into a video. I am a little behind the times when it comes to creating videos and need to catch up with the times.

  37. Very dope, I love this, as a new blogger this makes sense. People are different and study content in very different ways. Using your technique should be appreciated by your new viewers.

  38. webly says:

    I really love the idea of recycling old content creatively. I am really going to try this because sometimes my mind is really blank even when I have a topic already planned.
    Great post

  39. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the ideas, Adam.
    In regards to what Jamie said about DMCA notice and getting your website shut down, would Google remove you from their search engine if you copied your own material from elsewhere on your site and reposted it as a new blog post?
    Question 2, If you borrow short snippets from another website and Press it giving full credit & link-backs to that site, isn’t that okay, also? I know I would love to have my site Pressed as long as link backs to my site were provided and full blog posts or web pages weren’t copied.

    • Adam Costa says:

      Hi Kevin,

      I’m pretty sure Jamie was kidding. As for Google, they won’t remove your site from their index, but they may lower your copied page in the search results IF the content is exactly the same.

      But here’s the thing: when you repurpose content, it’s in an entirely different format, which escapes this issue. Thus, ten posts compiled into an eBook delivered by email (or put into a video, etc.) is not the same medium and therefore completely different.

      Of course you can quote others with a link back. That’s good manners (and journalism).

  40. Mayura says:

    Hi Adam,

    You make me wanna read this one ;) Creative thinking huh? Really appreciate your content presentation mate… Thanks for sharing about recycling content.

    Cheers…

  41. Libby says:

    Ahh recycling material. What a great concept. —and Fun too. If you loved posting about something the first time, shouldn’t you take pride in posting it again. I love this idea. And maybe in recycling, you can even think of something more brilliant and catchy. I dig it. I think I am going to recycle my current stuff into a podcast.

  42. Aditi Datta says:

    Very Creative Concept Adam!! Yes, I completely agree with the post that we are not stealing content and instead of that, we are recycling content. I think this concept is sometimes needed and helpful too. We can recycle content, edit some of its features and that does not refers to stealing. Good one and perfect idea for all the content writers. Thanks for sharing!!

  43. Another great post Adam, it’s often overlooked, I want to start creating infographics based on some of my old posts to distribute.

    This is the 2nd post of yours I’ve commented on today, I wonder if I’ll come across the other 48 lol

  44. Richard says:

    Stealing without plagiarizing is necessary for us fiction writers. We take the general plot ideas, likenesses of characters, and scenes to create something our own, but we do however, write our own stories. Yes Adam, there is truly a goldmine waiting to be put tapped in to.

  45. Great info and I agree with Mike Williams

  46. Ritu says:

    Nice info and explanation and specially for Newbie Bloggers…..However changing the content little bit, changes the whole Article in the search engine….

  47. Grace says:

    The only thing I can say about this is that loyal readers notice this. Everytime I see recycled content and I notice it for what it is I think my respect comes down a notch. I view it like taking the easy route instead of digging deal for real (new) content. That’s just my opinion though.

  48. Allison says:

    Makes sense to me. Thanks for the suggestions! My blog is still new enough that it will be awhile before I can repackage content. However, I have found that some of it can be re-written as freelance material. Also, I appreciate blogs that allow other bloggers to link up on Travel Tips Tuesday or Travel Photo Thursday. I usually link to older, but still relevant posts, and hope that the link will give the older content a second life and draw readers to my newer posts as well.

  49. How come you have only popped up on my radar recently Adam. Another great post and when I am dragging my heels looking for new content I know I don’t have to look very far now!
    Cheers

  50. Great post Adam! Thanks for sharing those resources. It’s got my mind ticking. I recycle content quite a bit through my podcast, newsletter and guest posts (rewritten). These are great new ideas