So this is how it began:
Coffee on a bright Sunday morning in 2005 and various lifestyle magazines sitting idle on a coffee table.
The idea to launch lifestyle blogs in different niches and bringing bloggers together just took over my thoughts. Within days we had built a small team and officially opened doors for Instablogs.
Our reader base grew quickly. In a year, we touched our first million pageview per month mark and never looked back. We quickly outgrew our 200sqft office and technologies very fast. Many times had to move to bigger servers in short spans.
We wanted to scale and sought external funding.
We raised $4million in venture capital in 2010 with a business plan to scale our content operation quickly. The plan was to build a team of internal and freelance contributors who would work together without diluting the vision of each site.
Bigger might be better, but bigger also means extra set of problems. Managing a small team where everyone knew each others dog’s and girlfriend’s name and a team working in different time zone that never had any face to face interaction is completely different.
Senior editors started struggling with managing freelancers and training new team members, while freelancers queries on a large part remained unanswered or delayed.
We had a powerful CMS built which could easily handle content distribution and vast amount of traffic with minimal server resources, but communicating across the team started becoming a nightmare.
We hacked together Basecamp, Google Docs and our CMS for a workflow but it proved inadequate for scalable content operation. We tried various tools and wrote tons of code to integrate them in our CMS, but the reality was that our editors were working like managers. They were focussing more on team management than actual content strategy.
One thing we failed to realize at that time was that we needed a proper content production management software in addition to a world quality CMS.
CMS are meant for managing content, and we had built one of the best CMS out there. We even licensed it to Nokia and a media giant UTV in India. But, where we struggled was absence of a software bringing an order to the editorial newsroom chaos.
One of the biggest success mantras for Demand Media was building a great application to manage large team from ideation, delegation, workflow engine, feedback mechanism, payment management, performance tracking of team members and a robust editorial calendar. WordPress and Drupal just like our internal CMS, Instapress, are perfect for managing and distributing content but building a workflow engine in them as a module are more of hacks than the actual solution.
I also saw similar methodologies being adopted by various digital agencies and content networks to tie together multiple applications like emails, google docs, spreadsheets, IMs etc to run editorial newsroom. This is not going to work in the long run and you are going to get your editors losing focus just doing administrative tasks. A great editorial strategy needs perfect tools to execute it.
This is what I now intend to change with my new startup – Betaout.
At Betaout, we build tools and software for modern age publishers and digital agencies.
Our first product is Content Cloud.
It is a an editorial project management software that will plug-in to your favourite CMS.
It allows modern publishers and digital agencies to have a clear focus on producing top notch content by automating their administrative tasks under one envelope along with unhindered content idea generation, editorial calendar, assignment workflow, payment management and contributor management.
Eventually, Instablogs was rebranded Instamedia and sold to a dubai based media group. It was doing around 20Million pageviews when it was sold.
But what I am doing now is still connected to that cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.