Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend four days in Seattle, working with clients and meeting with friends and colleagues who live in that beautiful city. I decided to take a day to myself and go whale watching, something I had never done.

While on the boat, I got to chatting with a woman who told me she upcycles clothing. When she described what it was, my mind (as it often does), jumped to content.  When I went to Google ‘upcycling content,’ it became clear that other people had already thought about this. However, I think it’s good to put some definition about what upcycling content is and why we need the term in our industry.


What is upcycling?

Similar to recycling, upcycling is the process of taking a material used for something else, and mixing it with other things to make it more luxurious or better.

Why is upcycling content different from repurposing content?

Repurposing content means changing its format to suit your audience’s needs. Remember, content has three distinct parts:
  1. Information: What you are trying to say
  2. Format: The best way to say it for that audience (video for teens, executive summaries for busy execs, pictures for retail shoppers)
  3. Distribution: Placement on the appropriate channels where your audience spends their time
When you repurpose content, you are changing its format—so you are taking a video and turning it into an article, or publishing the transcript of a podcast. At Aha Media, we advise our clients to follow the Rule of 4—so for every piece of information you want to share with your target audiences, plan to produce it in text, video, audio and graphic content. That way, you’ll get the most out of your content.


What is upcycling content?

In my definition, upcycling would mean:
  1. Rewriting technical content to make it more conversational
  2. Cutting down longer videos to make them shorter
  3. Putting together different pictures to create a Slideshare or slideshow

So, upcycling is not editing content to make it shorter, or repurposing its format.  Upcycling content means taking content you already have (information combined with format) and making it better for your target audience. Distribution may change depending on what you’ve upcycled, or you may just use the same channels to show audiences improved content with some new elements added.

Let’s look at an example: You are a luxury hotel that has a small fan base that regularly publishes pictures on Flickr and Instagram. How about publishing that feed to your hotel’s website, or better yet, turn it into a slideshow that potential customers can flip through? You pick the best photos, give credit to the fans, and everyone wins.

What do you think? Are there examples of upcycling you’ve already done with content? Share those examples and we’ll post them to the blog.

Oh and the whales were great! Saw seven of them in the Salish Sea.


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