My Mantra to Blogging that Made $20,000: Remix, Reuse, and Republish


By: Walter Chen

For the last three months, I’ve been focused on one question: How do I publish at least one high quality article every single day that will increase sales? 

In learning how to answer that question, I sold $20,000 of my product (iDoneThis) with content marketing alone. I'm going to share with you the 3 tricks to blogging that I learned over the last three months - all of these strategies can be easily applied to your ecommerce business. My mantra is simple: remix, reuse, and republish.

1.  Don’t create content, remix “de-risked” content

I used to fall into the trap of thinking that every time I sat down to write a blog post, I had to rewrite Ulysses from scratch. That meant that I usually just stared at my screen, unable to write down a single word.

Leo Widrich of Buffer advises the exact opposite approach: “Copy the hell out of others.”  While you should never steal another person’s writing, you should always look at what content has been successful in your area and mimic it while making it your own.

I wrote a blog post that over 30,000 people read in less than an hour using Leo’s technique. My product, iDoneThis, helps make people and teams more productive. So I knew that I wanted to write a blog post about personal productivity. Instead of racking my brain for ideas, I took to Hacker News, a popular link-sharing site, and searched "productivity".


The two links that got by far the most attention were: Marc Andreessen’s Guide to Personal Productivity and Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret. I pulled out one interesting tip from Andreessen’s guide on how he stays productive and made that interesting nugget an entire blog post. Then I played on the title of the successful Seinfeld post by calling my article, “Marc Andreessen’s Productivity Trick to Feeling Marvelously Efficient.”  

I had no doubt that people would love my post because the content had already been de-risked. Sure enough, tens of thousands of people read, shared, and learned a valuable productivity technique from the article.

2.  Reuse, reuse, reuse: one successful blog post is another successful blog post that’s yet to be written.

Writing just one blog post that strikes a chord with your audience is a huge accomplishment. Given how hard it is to write a single blog post that tens of thousands of people love, I used to feel paralyzed by the huge challenge of writing yet another post.

Then I began to wonder, had every single one of my potential customers seen my blog post? Wouldn’t that snippet of knowledge that I’d shared also be useful and interesting to people who weren’t on the receiving end of the distribution channels that I’d initially used?

This is how I began to realize that if I wrote just one successful blog post, I had the seeds to write many more successful blog posts.

For example, I wrote this blog post for my company blog: Silicon Valley’s Productivity Secret, which over 40,000 people read, but I struggled for months afterwards to write another post that would achieve comparable success. I started to think I was a one-hit wonder.

That’s when I realized that there were many people out there that hadn’t read that one hit. I rewrote the article, condensing the originally longer narrative post into an easily digestible, useful “tips” post. It was published on Business Insider as 4 Secrets To Silicon Valley's Productivity where over 2,000 people read it:



The best part about all of this? It took less than an hour to write. As this process becomes more and more natural, you’ll produce content that’s of higher quality because it will become more and more refined around what’s interesting about the article. And remember, it’s absolutely vital that you never unexpectedly give a publisher content that has been published elsewhere, because that will make your contact look foolish and that channel will likely be closed to you.

3.  Republishing creates leverage — it’s like creating clones of yourself


The deeper I got into this content game, the more I noticed how professional content publishers leveraged the techniques I described above. Buzzfeed and Business Insider are two publishers that have elevated content remixing to an art form.

When I was browsing around Business Insider one day, I was surprised to discover that much of their content is actually republished content from other publishers. In turn, Business Insider articles are also republished on other sites.

I had an idea: even though my company iDoneThis was not in the content publishing game, wouldn’t it be awesome if the iDoneThis blog could get in on this republishing game plan? Then I wouldn’t have to remix or reuse articles, and they would automatically get republished for broader consumption.

I pitched the contributors editor at Business Insider with a simple value proposition. I have 5 articles that 10,000+ people have read, and I’m producing more high quality content every single day. Do you want my valuable, de-risked content for free?  

She said yes, and now our best articles go on to Business Insider regularly, which helps spread the word about what we’re doing at iDoneThis to thousands of people every day, and I don’t have to lift a finger.

Conclusion: More content, more community, more profit

Content helps you stand out from the fray, creates communities and trust in your voice, improves search optimization, and gets the word out and people in the door, whether that’s a virtual or brick-and-mortar door. 

Use the remix, reuse, and republish strategy to leverage the existence of great original content and your resources to maximize the ability to pique people’s interest to click, try, and buy, and understand who you are and what you do.


Walter Chen is the CEO and founder of iDoneThis, an easy way for companies to track and celebrate what's getting done.  He blogs about productivity, management, and starting a company on the iDoneThis Blog.  Follow him on Twitter at @smalter.


15 comments

  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    December 12 2012, 10:41AM

    Haha I wonder if this was ‘remixed’ from somewhere else?

  • Hannah
    Hannah
    December 12 2012, 10:52AM

    This may well be a useful philosophy in terms of catching eyeballs / clicks / customers, but sometime someone is going to have to create something new… In this regard, I think Jonathon Colman has some great thoughts on content strategy: http://www.jonathoncolman.org/2012/11/26/we-can-do-better-than-this/

  • Walter
    Walter
    December 12 2012, 11:42AM

    @Jennifer: It is, actually! The original post was a huge brain dump, and this is a refined version that represents a progression in my thinking. (http://blog.idonethis.com/post/36065976015/the-sprawling-guide-to-content-marketing-that-made-us)

    @Hannah To me, quality and originality is of the utmost importance. The issue for me is how to create content that’s high quality and original, but works in accordance with the way people consume content w.r.t. different channels on the web.

  • Stephen Pratley
    Stephen Pratley
    December 12 2012, 04:23PM

    Worth remembering that your own style and curation of a wide range of sources are enough to make your own blog unique and valuable.

    I use a similar technique sometimes using Social Crawlytics to see what are the most popular posts on competitor blogs, then researching similar topics. I rarely get the same results, but the base line of interest is more consistent.

  • Dan
    Dan
    December 12 2012, 10:31PM

    Thanks for posting this article. It’d be great to know a little about how you first get your posts to take off, before going to Business Insider.

    After you finish writing each post, what are the next immediate steps that you take?

  • Adrienne Erin
    Adrienne Erin
    December 13 2012, 01:34PM

    I thought the concept of recycling “de-risked” content was interesting, but I agree with Hannah – it’s a little disappointing how few “new” ideas show up these days. Jonathon Colman’s post was a fascinating read, and it made quite a splash on inbound.org. I definitely would also recommend it to anyone curious about this stuff.

  • Walter
    Walter
    December 13 2012, 01:52PM

    @Stephen: Great point!

    @Dan: Each post is written with a particular distribution channel in mind. After an article is written, we go to that channel and try to make it work for us. I write about it a bit more here: http://blog.idonethis.com/post/36065976015/the-sprawling-guide-to-content-marketing-that-made-us.

    @Adrienne: I totally sympathize. I don’t think what I wrote is at odds with notions of originality and quality. I consider it a way to meld “quality”—defined as something that your audience will get value out of—with your original perspective in a repeatable way.

  • This is pathetic
    This is pathetic
    December 16 2012, 06:45AM

    This article is what is wrong about the web, and mainstream media in general. Regurgitating vomit to pass it onto the next reader is not only useless, it’s plain pollution.

    Marc Andreessen and Jerry Seinfeld have done things before they had enough authority to actually talk about it. You’re merely standing next to the crowd and shouting louder to get heard. Good for you if it makes you sell stuff. What’s next, photos of girls in underwear?

    If you don’t want to write original content, just don’t, it’s perfectly fine. But re-writing an article you found on a content aggregator about a blog that talks about a personality…

  • Gregory Ciotti
    Gregory Ciotti
    January 05 2013, 03:29PM

    ^ Keep hating buddy.

    An idea shouldn’t be limited to one article.

    Would you claim that a comedian should only tell a joke once?

    But here’s the best part… you’re not even willing to use your real name when leaving a critique. That’s okay though, because I can already tell you’re just another guy who spends more time complaining than doing real shit.

  • Lynn
    Lynn
    January 05 2013, 10:51PM

    Thank you for the suggestions. I am interested in starting my own ecommerce business and am currently in research mode. I look forward to future articles.

  • Mark
    Mark
    January 18 2013, 08:47PM

    Hi, regarding step 3. Republishing creates leverage… isn’t this bad for Google SEO? Having duplicate articles and content = bad SEO and possibly won’t have an effect on your rankings?

    But that’s from an SEO perspective

  • Glenn
    Glenn
    March 06 2013, 01:22PM

    Awesome info!! I’ve been struggling on writing unique content and I never understood how people can blast out content daily

  • suhana
    suhana
    April 09 2013, 07:38AM

    HI
    Today i came across this amazing new website named nupinch.com…i really think you guys should check it out..
    Link: http://bit.ly/XczfI3

  • Krithika Rangarajan
    Krithika Rangarajan
    May 14 2014, 06:50PM

    Hey Mark

    I enjoyed your tips. I think repurposed content is sometimes MORE IMPACTFUL than the original. In fact, I believe that it takes a very creative mind to put a new spin on an old topic.

    Thank you so much #HUGSS
    Kitto

  • Ali
    Ali
    September 21 2014, 07:21AM

    There are more ways to look at the same thing. While content curation may seem at odds with the idea of writing genuine new content but what happens to the other half of the planet who never hear about that original article in the first place. Everyone is not that tech or social circuit savy to catch on what’s trending or popular. Their limited source of info maybe the “retweets” they see on their TL. If the aim is to maximise reach of good content to max population then content curation is a duty. Making bucks out of it is taking it to a moral screening …That may be avoided.

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