Sure, go ahead and plagiarize yourself. Here are 9 ways to do it.
Fair warning: If you aren’t producing content of some kind, putting forth your best ideas in a comprehensive, tangible format on a consistent basis, this article might not make much sense to you.
On the other hand, if you’re already pumping out great ideas with one hand, and voraciously feeding your mind with spoonfuls of good content with the other, then it is you who I’m talking to.
Here’s something that I became aware of, almost accidentally: I recently passed inventory of content I’ve already put out, and was blown away at the sheer volume of ideas I’ve Gepettoed into existence. After years and years (over 12 years blogging, over 6 years podcasting, over 20 years producing video, I’m talking quite a few years here), I have built up a small library worth of ideas, many of them still out there, floating in the ether.
Now to be frank, some of these ideas absolutely suck, while other bits are outstanding — if I may say so myself — but in the end I have this a massive volume of thoughts that could fool anyone into believing that I don’t have real businesses to run, nor a family to support, but rather just jam away full-time at a laptop, at a beach, 24/7.
Not my case… but in any case, what I want to talk about here is how to scale up content production, without necessarily starting from scratch every single time.
You — the Producer with a well-deserved capital “P” — are constantly racing to keep things fresh, to talk about new ideas, or at the very least, to speak about ideas that are new to a segment of your audience.
Yet at times we’re simply unaware of the massive amounts of ideas we already have out there, and that could perfectly be revived into newuse, aren’t we?
Now, in our ethical refusal to plagiarize others, we might mistake our situation to a degree where we look any other way than to the treasure troves of ideas that we’ve birthed. We fall into the mistake of thinking that every bit of content we produce needs to be created ex nihilo.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m absolutely not saying that you should pump out the exact same ideas over and over again. That would be the easiest way to burn out anyone consuming what you’re producing.
Indeed, I’m offering a path to produce the exact opposite result, through a much easier method.
Today, I want to give you permission to plagiarize yourself.
That is, draw from ideas you put out, copy them, reshape them, and bring them to new life. They are your ideas, so why feel guilty about using — even re-using — them?
Here I’m going to give you 9 reasonable ways to plagiarize yourself without repeating the exact same stuff over and over.
Here we go:
1- Confirm a prediction
If you had foreseen a particular direction your industry would take through content that you had published, you can now publish about how right you were back then. By doing so, you’re not really boasting about being a human crystal ball. You were just correct, that’s all.
You can consider including reasons why you saw that particular outcome as the most probable, and this way ground your prediction as much more than wo-woo “psychic powers,” but rather a strong grasp on your subject of expertise.
2- Admit your prediction was wrong
As cool as it is to look like your industry’s fortune-teller, if you were in fact wrong, then publish about that too! You will show up as transparent and more human, and not as someone trying to hide their shortcomings.
More importantly, you can offer value by speaking about a) why your prediction failed, b) what the reality is, and c) what you were able to learn from the difference between reality and your prior expectation, which should give way to some pretty interesting learnings.
3- Recant on a previous position
Have you been known for a particular position, which you’ve realized no longer makes sense? Hey, it happens to everyone. With so many factors in play in a rapidly-evolving world, you’re more than allowed to change your mind.
Even thought leaders recant at times — remember when Seth Godin said that clicking on web banners was a way to give a virtual tip to websites? Wrong in so many ways, but at least he admitted it… and so can you.
4- Update a prior position
You don’t have to wait until you’re wrong in order to update your position on a subject. As times change, so can your stance adapt accordingly. You could have been absolutely correct, given the information and circumstances available at the time, yet new insight might have given you a reason to deepen your stance further and make it more relevant to current times.
5- Keep the list going
If your content is structured around a list of some sort — somewhat like the one you’re reading right now! — you can publish a new piece continuing the list further. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” as the saying goes, so if you talked about 10 ways to do X, I’m sure you can squeeze the creative juices to come up with a number of additional ways.
6- Niche your recommendations
If you published about certain advice or recommendations, you can now publish about how that advice can be applied by a specific audience niche.
Of course, the risk with this approach will be that you’ll lose interest from the audience segment outside of that niche; on the other hand, the huge benefit is that your relevance will drastically increase from people within the niche.
7- Spin it into another media format
Your content might have been great in the original medium you published to, so why not bring it back to life into a different form of media? For example, a text article can be re-published as an audio segment, an infographic, or even a chapter in an ebook.
People who prefer other types of media than what you originally published to might come into contact with those ideas for the very first time; yet even people who consumed your content originally very rarely complain from seeing it published into a different format, as long as the ideas are worthwhile.
8- Use it to guest post on other channels
Here’s a secret : Audiences really don’t care so much about how many other places your content lives on, only about what they’re consuming on the channel they’re on at the moment.
Most of my articles are usually re-published in several languages in at least 5 other digital channels — guess which ones! — and a few have even become magazine articles (yes, in printed form).
As a side note, don’t listen to so-called SEO experts jabbering about “duplicate content penalties.” It’s not what they make it seem, and it’s not related to this recommendation at all.
9- Translate it into a different language
I’ve hinted about this in the previous tip. It’s highly unlikely that your content will only be valuable in your native language, and there are population segments that are starving for solid insights. You can either set up a new platform in a different language (like I’ve done between here and here), or you can just guest post on someone else’s platform that is already in your target language — which has a side-benefit of speaking to an already-existing community.
If you don’t speak the target language, I strongly recommend you hire a capable translator for this task, and under NO circumstances ever use something straight out of Google Translate.
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As you’ve seen, there are many different ways you can re-utilize ideas that you’ve already published about, and still make something interesting to consume.
It first takes breaking from the idea that it’s wrong to do so, and then moving forward with one of these creative approaches.
Alex Rodríguez develops high-end digital marketing campaigns that transform brands and attract business. He is the author of Digital BACON. His clientele has run the gamut from top-level advertising agencies and Fortune500 corporations, through national broadcast networks, to award-winning production firms. He heads up the team at YMMY Marketing. Connect with Alex via LinkedIn or Twitter