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I've 15 years of experience in media, product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. On weekends, I read & write on media products. Most recently, I was a Knight Fellow w/ International Center for Journalists for 3.5 years.
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I've 15 years of experience in media, product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. On weekends, I read & write on media products. Most recently, I was a Knight Fellow w/ International Center for Journalists for 3.5 years.

Get more from evergreen content

Published Jul 31, 2021
Updated Mar 26, 2022

Many years ago, I was running Pykih, a web development agency. The business model was simple. I would buy developer years in bulk (hire people) and sell them as developers hours, at a premium. 

Business cycles: When we got long-term, sophisticated work, we made good money. However, sometimes, it would take a long time to close these orders.

  • During this lull period, the developer hours I had already bought (salaries) did not earn revenue.
  • Much like airline tickets, developer hours were a perishable commodity.

Logically: All we had to do was diligently maintain a backlog of estimated work and fourteen days prior to an empty roadmap, lookout for short-term agency work. In theory, those developer hours had a shelf life of fourteen days.

Yes, but in reality, the revenue-worthy shelf-life of these developer-hours was nil.

  • Our customers did not have low-cost, low-complexity, short-term work.
  • It took us months to align marketing, sales, and contracting to build a parallel pipeline for such work that we could close in 14 days.
  • Only then we were able to reclassify that shelf life of fourteen days as revenue-worthy.

What is the revenue-worthy shelf life of your evergreen content?

  • Ask any editor if they have evergreen stories and they will say yes. And yes they are. But the revenue worthiness of such evergreen stories is next to nil.
  • One reason for this could be that marketing, listing, and discovery systems and processes be optimised to market and sell what’s the latest.
  • Especially in news products, SEO won’t get you traffic because Google deprioritizes articles on news websites after one to three days.

Measure it:

  • How many days after a piece of content was published is it still getting readership? Additionally, if you are a subscription or e-commerce media product, then how many days does a piece of content trigger new sales?
  • This revenue-worthy shelf life will vary for each business type. For example, it will be the least for news product and possibly, the highest for educational content like Masterclass or Brilliant.org.

Methods to increase revenue-worthy shelf life of evergreen stories

Replug evergreen stories in context of new stories: Let audiences come in due to what’s in news and let them also read evergreen stories (explainers, timeline, opinions, etc.) in the context of that story. These replugs could be an explainer on the subject, a timeline, an opinion piece by an expert, etc.

Subreddit your site: Unfortunately, often the information architecture of websites is around how you, as an organization, produce information.

  • For example, news websites are still organized around beats, desks, and bureaus. However, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I’ll read World stories!”
  • Instead, people online are organized around interests. Quartz implements this well. They announce well-defined interests (or obsessions) that they cover in-depth and collect micro-communities around those topics.
QZ obsessions

Sales Pages for High Traffic Topics: No, not the 2014-kind topic pages 🥴that list all stories in a topic in reverse chronological order.

  • Get a subeditor to operate as a knowledge manager or librarian, who consumes the content produced and repackage it into a sales page for the High Traffic Topic.
  • As they do this, they’ll also observe gaps or opportunities in the coverage which they can relay back to the editor who can then commission more content.

Search and Compare: When audiences have a clear intent, they can spend hours searching, filtering, and comparing the right piece of information for themselves.

  • We do this while researching for a paper, shopping for laptops and air tickets, and finding a vacation spot.
  • For example, a journalism product that I adore is the People’s Archive of Rural India. They give me, a citizen who lives in urban India, a glimpse of rural India. They diligently map all their stories on a map and allow visitors to explore various parts of India.

One of the methods of doing this is using Structured Journalism or Spreadsheet Journaling.