Content Marketing

Content Arbitrage: What it is & how Generative AI puts the concept on skates

Der Author des Blogs: Philipp Götza in einem kleinen runden Bild, auf dem er in die Kamera lächelt.
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Effort does not correlate with success. We all created content that took us a long time to get right and it went nowhere. One way to shield you from this is to take proven ideas, rework them, and sell them for higher value to a new audience. That is Content Arbitrage. But its dynamic gets changed by generative AI.

You will learn how you can use Content Arbitrage to your advantage, what role generative AI plays in Content Arbitrage & how you can futureproof your Content Arbitrage efforts.

📰 TL;DR:

  • Content Arbitrage means taking existing content and with minimal effort leverage it for higher value somewhere else
  • There are 3 types: Curation, Summarization & Repurposing, and Translation
  • Curation is usually the weakest Content Arbitrage out of the 3
  • Short-term, Content Arbitrage sees an increased perceived value
  • Long-term, these effects will diminish
  • There are multiple ways to bulletproof your Content Arbitrage opportunities
  • Generative AI is a short-term arbitrage opportunity

In a nutshell: What is Content Arbitrage and why does it work?

Arbitrage is known from the business world. You basically buy goods for a lower price in one market and then sell it for a higher price in a different market. Personally, I remember hearing about it when I studied Business Administration some time 10 years ago. A professor in International Marketing used to talk about Arbitrage all the time.

The reason it works is information asymmetry. To give you a practical example from the real world: There are countless vintage stores selling old Metallica t-shirts. These shirts are rare, already exist, and are hard to value. As a result, they can be sold for hundreds of dollars, even though they are often bought for a fraction of that.

This concept can be applied to the world of Content Marketing. Ryan Law, now Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs, brought the concept to my attention in his article from 2020, when he was still working at Animalz.

"Content arbitrage happens when we take this existing content from one place and—with minimal effort—leverage it for higher value somewhere else."
The concept of Content Arbitrage. You can see a graphic where something that exists already for a different audience gets taken by you & with minimal effort can be leveraged for higher value to your audience.
The concept Content Arbitrage

Types & Examples of Content Arbitrage in action

To get a feeling for how this all works practically in Content Marketing, I will borrow the classification Ryan used and provide you with examples for all of them.

Curation of fragmented information 

Instead of trying to find all the relevant information, the creator curates interesting, important & useful information for the consumer. Curation is usually a weak form of Content Arbitrage, because the barriers to entry are very low. You can start curating today.

In my mind, there are different levels of quality or tiers to curation. The lowest tier (= tier 1) are listicle posts. Mostly boring stuff, but there is demand for that. The medium tier (= tier 2) are newsletters that curate industry news. Often there is a bit of input, like one sentence why some news were included by the person curating, but the focus lies on providing value in delivering the news in a centralized format.

The strongest form of Curation (= tier 3) is when you add extended value to the curation. Anyone can curate a list of highly rated vacuum cleaners. But only a small portion has expertise in this area and meticulously tested the best ones based on objective criteria. That way, you can add unique value to your curated information.

The Tiers of Curation in a visualization. The higher you go from Tier 1 to Tier 3, the higher the value of the curation.
Tiers of Curation

To name 2 examples of tier 3 Curation:

1. Learning SEO by Aleyda Solis: Aleyda is a well known SEO Consultant and has curated the best learning resources for SEO. Technically this is merely curation, but Aleyda is an expert. It gives the offer more credibility & weight.

A graphic that captures a screenshot from a topic page on "Programmatic SEO". An article by Ryan Law is highlighted by a golden box. Next to the screenshot is some text, that explains why learning SEO works. It requires expertise to curate on a high level like this.
Learning SEO by Aleyda Solis

2. Wingmen SEO Newsletter (German only at the moment): Yes, I work at Wingmen. But before I joined, I was a loyal reader for multiple years. I like to tell people the story that the newsletter is a big reason why I wanted to work at Wingmen. Instead of just listing industry news, only the most interesting stuff gets in there & we don’t just throw stuff at you, we dissect it.

A graphic featuring a screenshot from the Wingmen SEO newsletter. There is an article from Philipp Götza on SGE. The text explains that Wingmen publishes 5 articles in their newsletter per week, both news & evergreen. They get good feedback on it.
Wingmen SEO Newsletter

Summarization & Repurposing information into new formats

Sometimes ideas & information are locked up. In books, journals, science papers, movies, videos, etc. Leveraging this type of Content Arbitrage means going the “extra mile” for your users, distilling information into a format that is easier to consume.

A great example was mentioned by Si Quan Ong (Content Marketer at Ahrefs) in his article “I Wrote 100+ Blog Posts for the Ahrefs Blog. Here’s What I Learned.”.

"My best-performing article is my post on affiliate marketing. I didn’t “write” it; all I did was repurpose Sam’s video."

He took this video and repurposed it into this article: Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: What It Is + How to Succeed

Not only did it perform the best out of his articles, it took much less work than other pieces. Yet, it resonated very well with the Ahrefs audience. The original video is over 4 years old at the time of writing this article. This is a classic example of repurposing. Going the extra mile doesn’t always mean putting in more work, but being smart

I want to share two examples of my own “Content” that used the concept of Content Arbitrage. First off is a LinkedIn post from summer 2023. It was a hot day after work when I opened the new Website Boosting issue (which is a physical magazine on Online Marketing & SEOyes, a physical magazine about the digital world).

The intro to the issue resonated with me, which said (translation from German to English by me):

Agencies do not have to be afraid of ChatGPT & others, because clients often don’t know what they need or they struggle to define it.

Paired with a quick snap of the magazine laying on the table, which can be seen below:

A screenshot from LinkedIn. The post mentions that agencies don't have to be afraid of ChatGPT, because clients often don't know what they need. Mario Fischer is tagged and the post has 78 engagements.

I took an idea from someone else, Mario Fischer (with citation), and turned the “locked up idea” into something that could be valuable to my network. It worked very well and was one of the best performing posts in terms of engagement and eyeballs (impressions).

The second example was me using 2 presentations Martin Splitt gave. In total he talked for 90 minutes.

I watched the 90 minutes and distilled what I thought was useful to our audience. The result was a LinkedIn post and an article in our newsletter. Both resonated very well with my network and our newsletter subscribers.

Technically, summarization & repurposing are more powerful than curation, because they require more work most of the time.

Translation of alien ideas, concepts & frameworks into your industry’s “language”

I love this type of Content Arbitrage. It requires critical thinking, synthesis, and firsthand experience. You take concepts, frameworks, or ideas from one industry and translate into the language of your industry.

  • The article on Content Arbitrage is a translation from the business world into the world of content marketing. Just like this article is technically a form of Arbitrage, as I take an already existing idea (thank you Ryan).

Someone who is really good at this as well is Kevin Indig, former Director of SEO at companies like Shopify and Atlassian, now Growth Advisor to a number of companies. In his weekly newsletter, Growth Memo, Kevin often uses concepts that are more often seen in the world of classic business, rather than SEO, where his roots lie.

  • A good way to uncover blind spots and identify opportunities for a strategy can be found by using a SWOT analysis. Kevin adopted the concept of the SWOT analysis to prepare for Google’s SGE (Search Generative Experience), i.e. the use of generative AI in the regular Google Search.

📦 In 2023, Anita, a colleague of mine, and I did an SGE SWOT analysis for a client. If you are interested in the template, you can copy it for free: Wingmen SGE SWOT Template

A screenshot from the Wingmen SGE SWOT Template. There are 4 rectangles. 2 of them are internal factors (Strengths & Weaknesses). The other 2 are external (Opportunities & Threats). The rectangles are filled with sample data.
Wingmen SGE SWOT Template

Both Ryan and Kevin are experts at what they do, so they both knew that these concepts were going to be helpful to their target audience. Because of my background in Business Administration, I often think about how I can apply concepts I learned at university to SEO and Content Marketing.

  • Examples could include Product Lifecycle Analysis for Content when it faces a growth period or content decay, or the BCG Matrix which can also be used for classifying your content portfolio.

Since the 3 forms of Content Arbitrage are different in how much value they carry, they could be seen like this:

The pyramid of Content Arbitrage. Translation is at the top, Curation at the bottom. The pyramid symbolizes that the value to each of them is different.
Pyramid of Content Arbitrage

How AI influences the logic of Content Arbitrage

Ryan is a great thinker & writer. His article sparked my motivation to revisit the concept in the times of generative AI, because there are multiple ways the new elephant in the room could influence the way in which we can profit from Content Arbitrage.

In my opinion, the effects need to be looked at short-term (today, tomorrow, next week, etc.) and long-term. Also, both the perspective of creators, as well as consumers needs to be taken into account.

Short-term effects of Generative AI on Content Arbitrage

We lived with ChatGPT for more than a year now. The hype phase is over I’d say, but make no mistake: Generative AI is here to stay. This can be described with Amara’s law:

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."

Let’s take a look at what we can already see and what will most likely happen pretty soon:

Short-term curation will not get much easier by using AI. It requires human expertise, empathy, and understanding to curate on a high level.

However, summarization & repurposing are already being squeezed. Early adopter creators have the advantage to work with a much higher productivity in both, creating summaries and repurposing.

  • Example #1: Instead of watching an hour long video to deliver new value to your audience, you can download the transcript and let the tool of your choice create a summary of the main points. 
  • Example #2: If you have a podcast, you can get the transcript and use AI to extract potential blog articles and LinkedIn posts.

To share a personal example from a consumer perspective: Alphabet (the company behind Google) recently had their earnings call for the 4th quarter of 2023 which was 90 minutes long. I like to consume content, but not when it’s purely information I’m looking for. The solution was to get hands on a transcript and to summarize it with ChatGPT:

A screenshot from one of the recent Wingmen SEO Newsletter articles by Philipp Götza. It's a short summary on Alphabet's Earnings Call. Philipp says that Google was lucky & survived with a black eye.

The result: I saved probably 50-90% (depending on if I would have read through or listened to it) of time to do something else. It could also be me using this article to gather ideas for LinkedIn posts. Not sure if I need AI for that, but you get the gist. 

Translation also got easier already. Not so much in coming up with how something could be useful to your audience, because that, in my opinion, requires expertise and experience with said idea, framework, or concept. But the process of adaptation, coming up with simple examples, and explaining it in a very easy to understand language (ELI5), is already much easier.

In conclusion, creators can leverage Content Arbitrage short-term due to higher productivity. Even though ChatGPT has 180 million users (including multiple accounts per person), the adoption rate is still quite small. Merely 2% of the world’s population is actively using ChatGPT.

Technically, the perceived value of Content Arbitrage should increase, as content creators can create content faster, especially when adoption rates are low.

A graph that shows the short-term value gain of leveraging generative AI for Content Arbitrage.
Short-term value gain of Content Arbitrage

Long-term effects of Generative AI on Content Arbitrage

Long-term is looking into a crystal ball, but I have my theories.

It’s easy to think that everything might be super futuristic in a couple of years. The release of ChatGPT and the initial hype surely felt a bit like that already. But I remember my father telling me thatback when he was a kidpeople promised we would have flying cars by the year of 2000. 

Of course, many things have changed since then, but I don’t see flying cars.

  • In a futuristic world, we don’t curate manually. An AI could browse the web of content, probably also created by AI, to find the content pieces that our audience likes the most. How do we know? The AI is fed with user data and knows exactly what our readers would chew up.

The cat bites its own tail at some point in this way of thinking. Which is why I tend to believe that not as much will change here.

  • Summarization & Repurposing could entirely be left to AI. Atleast parts of the adaptation and recreation of the existing content. 

The increased value we get in the short-term tends to lose stock and plummet to zero in the long-term. People will not need your summaries. That will not be good enough anymore.

  • Translation in my mind is stuck. It gets a bit easier, yes, but you cannot skip the part of building up firsthand experience, learning about your audience, etc.

In the end, the effects gained short-term should diminish, once again, in the long-term. In fact, they might go back to their initial levels.

This is quite common in Arbitrage. You have the short-term opportunity to profit from information asymmetry. However, this will not last very long.

A graph that shows the diminishing long-term value of leveraging generative AI for Content Arbitrage.
Long-term diminishing value of Content Arbitrage

Besides the gained value for content creators in the short-term, generative AI would put the types of Content Arbitrage and their value on its head:

The pyramid of Content Arbitrage gets put on its head due to generative AI & the value of each type changes. Translation is still the most valuable, but summarization & repurposing becomes the weakest.
The reversed pyramid of Content Arbitrage

My plan is to revisit this post in the years to come, to see how my bets held up.

Rapid Fire Tips: How to bulletproof your Content Arbitrage opportunities for the future

To maximize on Content Arbitrage opportunities in the future, here are 4 ideas you can incorporate into your content:

1. Make your content immune to Generative AI

Content is not always consumed because of information. A big reason why influencers are so successful is because of their personality

This is the #1 reason why reactions are such a popular format on YouTube, as well as Twitch. Instead of creating your own content you take content from someone else and let your viewers know about your thoughts on the topic as an example.

A second way is to provide insights only you can provide, because of your expertise and experience. I shared some examples in this article, which you can draw inspiration from.

On top of that, you should figure out where your already existing content sits on the Content Value Curve and where the piece you intend to release will sit. This is also a concept from Animalz, invented by Cassandra Naji.

The Content Value Curve from Animalz. On the Y-Axis is the strategic value, while on the X-Axis there is the tactical value. Going from bottom right to top-left you become more strategic. Thought leadership sits at the top left, while standard SEO content & glossaries are placed at the bottom right. The latter are impacted the most & fastest by generative AI.
The Content Value Curve

The higher your content is on the y-axis for strategic value, the easier it is to prevail value over AI. AI can do glossary content, standard SEO content, while thought leadership is still ruled by humans right now.

2. Think out-of-the-box and do things you couldn’t do without AI

It’s already quite popular, but AI enables all of us to code. You should be cautious with the output, but generally speaking I couldn’t create a tool that my audience might find helpful.

Your job is to not just copy an existing tool, that would be redundant. Instead come up with an idea that might make existing tools better, like additional functionality. You could either create a tool like that with ChatGPT or maybe a CustomGPT will suffice, that is based on an already existing idea.

An example for tools like that are the free AI writing tools by Ahrefs.

They are both helpful and lead to loads of organic traffic:

A graph from the Writing Tools directory at Ahrefs. The graph shows that Ahrefs gets about 540,000 organic visits with just 90 pages from this directory.

3. Do the things only you can do

You or your company probably have unique proprietary data or experiences, which can help to bring diminished Content Arbitrage back to former glory.

  • Technically, Spotify Wrapped is Content Arbitrage. The data is already there and just needs repurposing into something users of Spotify find entertaining or helpful (Repurposing)
  • Google uses their own Search Data to curate a list of Holiday Gift Ideas (Curation)

4. Content Design & great Writing

Looking through the eyes of a chat interface all day would be quite monotonous. Content gets mostly read because of 3 things:

  1. information & insights
  2. opinions/personalities of people
  3. how it’s written & looks like

There are examples of content that not only delivers value in points 1 + 2, but also looks & sounds great. It adds to the experience.

One example is the controversial article of The Verge on “How Google perfected the web”. I highly recommend checking it out purely for their use of content design.

Another example is Built for Mars (BFM). Peter Ramsey, the head behind BFM, has great content design, is a funny dude, and delivers a unique content experience. See this example from his LinkedIn UX Case Study.

Instead of linking out to the UX concepts he mentions (links are actually included, so Google can follow these), a click will open an overlay of the linked pages content. It’s a fresh way to consume content:

Screenshots from Built for Mars. there is an article with a highlighted element. Clicking that element opens up an overlay showing the linked component. In this case, it's about the "Reverse Prototyping" in UX Design. The overlay can easily be closed.

Just like your personality itself, design can be a competitive advantage in content marketing.

The same can be said about writing. SEO content and AI content can be quite dull to read. But writing can be magical and words can transform into weapons of persuasion

Writing great editorial, thought leadership content with AI is hard. You can use it as a sparring partner, but from my personal experience, AI is much better at programmatic plays. So your personal touch should always be apparent in your writing.

Tying it all together: Content Arbitrage in the AI world

When I was a kid, we used to play Yugioh all the time. One day, I opened up a booster pack and found my hidden gem: Jinzo. It was both rare and a very powerful card. When I gave it away someone offered me close to 50% of his entire card collection. I thought I made a great deal. Even in hindsight I think I did.

What I didn’t know back then: He would be able to sell this card for hundreds of Dollars/Euros. The price for a first edition card like that increased a lot.

The same applies to content marketing. Even if something was popular at some point in time, it might have a higher value in the future, because

  • times have changed
  • the format was altered
  • it’s new to you & your audience

AI right now gives you a short-term arbitrage opportunity that will not last long-term. Ryan seems to agree in his article at Ahrefs on AI content arbitrage :

"[...] And even if AI content gets good enough to render most of these objections irrelevant, we will still have the problem of zero barrier to entry; if it’s easy for you to do, it’s easy for your competitors. AI content is short-term arbitrage, not a long-term strategy."

The most important point most people miss is this: 

No one buys from a brand for delivering information. Information triggers logic, emotions make you act. So the trick, even in this AI-filled world, is still the same:

Make your audience feel something.

Ein Pluszeichen, um nach dem Klick die Antwort auf die Frage darzustellen.
Ein Pluszeichen, um nach dem Klick die Antwort auf die Frage darzustellen.
Ein Pluszeichen, um nach dem Klick die Antwort auf die Frage darzustellen.
Philipp Götza in einem gelben Pullover, wie er mit einem "Peace-Handzeichen" in die Kamera lächelt.
Philipp Götza | SEO Consultant

I've been working in Online Marketing for more than 4 years now & am focussed on SEO. My broad knowledge in Online Marketing helps me every day to consult & advise clients from different industries to achieve their Organic Growth goals by leveraging great performance in Organic Search. I'd love to year from you, so contact me on LinkedIn if you like!

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