Future articles may link back to the content, and long-tail features in particular are likely continue to get traction, but is there more that can be done beyond that single article to give the content or background data a new lease of life, and in the process, reveal new editorial and business opportunities?
In this feature – based on a recent Journalism.co.uk podcast – we look at three different case studies, which involve publishers seeking new opportunities with 'old' content. This might be content which is 'old' in the strictest sense of the word, recovered from the archives of years gone by for a renewed purpose. Or it might simply be previously published, whether yesterday, last week or last month. Either way, each one offers inspiration for just a handful of the ways publishers can make more of content online.
Using archives to power new digital storytelling
Veja, a magazine in Brazil, recently turned to its archives to fuel a data project looking at scandals in the country.
Digital versions of the magazine are available to view online, dating back to 1985, and this formed a significant part of the research for informing the data interactive, Scandal Meter.
Website editor Carolina da Gama Farina told Journalism.co.uk that initially the idea of the project was daunting. "When you first start to look into it you don't know where to start," she said. But the magazine archives provided "a very solid base" to focus their research.
"It's very solid information, it's information we can trust," she said. "It was already there, it was digitised, it was available to us."
She added that by using Veja's own archives as a starting point, they figured they would save time as they "wouldn't have to re-check information that was there because once it's in Veja magazine, we know it's true".
"We can just see what happened after that. We don't have doubts about that information."
The archives did not only supply information about different cases, the volume of content devoted to particular scandals within past magazines was also used as an indicator of what constituted a significant event.
"We decided to start with the scandals that had more magazine covers, and more pages, so we used a lot of the magazine archives to establish how important a scandal was." And those with the biggest levels of coverage made the cut.
And while the interactive was first published in December 2011, it hardly sits quietly in the archives itself, with the team constantly updating the content as new developments occur.
"It's actually an endless project," da Gama Farina said. "We have this commitment to keep the tool alive."
Using article data to feed curated subject pages
When journalists upload content online, adding relevant links and tags is in some cases standard procedure, but what happens after that? At the Drum, a marketing news site, this process has been structured so that those tags are then collected in an intelligent way, to offer readers, and its own journalists, a wider look at the news and specific companies or sectors.
"What happens is we can then surface that information in different ways later on," Nick Creed, digital director of the Drum told Journalism.co.uk.
One example shared by Creed is how this has been used in relation to its coverage of awards. "We add the awards information into the system where we then mark what they've achieved," he said.
"We link all the awards and categories with sectors, we link them with all the companies, and then after we've done that we can then produce different sections of the most awarded companies in different sectors and in different regions and in different time periods as well."
This offers new editorial opportunities, not just for the journalist in terms of highlighting patterns or trends, such as how certain sectors are performing, but also to gives the reader greater background, and a wider perspective, such as through the introduction of company or industry-specific pages, bringing together related coverage.
"What we want to do in the future is to really provide a service for users when they're coming on to the site, not just to look at the news content, but also then to dig deeper into that content and look at what's behind it," he explained.
But, he added, when introducing such content frameworks, it is important to ensure all journalists are aware of the correct procedure to contribute to the database.
"There's definitely a bit of an educational process that's involved in ensuring that whoever is uploading the content understands what they're doing and understands how the systems are working behind it. So if they're tagging things in the wrong way then obviously the data is going to be wrong when it's churned out eventually at the other end."
Using journalism-related data to build subscription offerings
For investigative journalism website Exaro, data also took centre-stage when it reassessed its business model, moving from a paywall to "add-on data services" – a way to deliver a subscription offering which is built on existing content and the "underlying data".
"We decided that the most fruitful area for us to concentrate in terms of looking for subscribers was to seek subscribers specifically for add-on data services, rather than for the website overall," Watts told Journalism.co.uk. "So we have been creating an add-on data service in the same breath, as it were, as creating editorial content, and we thought that was where our efforts in terms of sales were best placed."
The key example so far has been how the site has applied this to its Insolvency Index, which was already being used by the editorial team to report on national trends. This has now been developed to offer an "in-depth and detailed overview of UK insolvencies" for paying subscribers, including a daily update on the latest data, at a cost of £4,500 a year.
"We're using very specialist data journalists to accumulate the data and it's essentially drawn from a mixture of sources, from the London Gazette, the Edinburgh Gazette and the Belfast Gazette, which publish insolvency notices every day," Watts explained. "But we're combining that with information about the relevant companies from Companies House, that makes it possible to see very easily in a spreadsheet, companies in a specific sector."
"So the spreadsheet that subscribers receive have against every company the specific sector that they operate in or have been operating in. So that means, if you're interested in a particular sector, you can just filter the spreadsheet just to focus on that."
While the Insolvency Index is the first example of Exaro's new approach to digital subscriptions, Watts added that other applications of the model are planned.
"The idea is to create other comparable projects which would have the dual purpose of producing a steady flow of editorial content in a particular subject area, but would provide commercial opportunity to sell the underlying data to what would probably be a highly-specialised audience, as the Insolvency Index is itself targeted at."
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