Why current content collaboration model is broken?

The economy of online newsroom is changing fast. News sources are getting more fragmented while the consumer is demanding more stories per day. Today, a successful online media business, produces content in multiple forms ranging from – news, infographics, videos, slideshows, reviews, multimedia to curated reader commentary. In addition to creating content, it also has to develop and manage  the social community on-site and on its social channels. 

Digital Publishers are looking to adapt the model of distributed workforce where few dedicated staff editors are managing dozens of freelance staff members. This not only lower the cost of operations but also brings a diverse mix of skills and expertise to the table.

One of the key to the success of many online publications like Huffington Post, The Verge, AOL & Forbes has been their ability to manage their in-house and freelance team seamlessly. The smart people behind these sites were quick to realise the exponential demand for content by their readers and emerged winner in producing quality content at scale. They were able to do so because they invested in building strong collaborative platforms and softwares to manage a hybrid content production that synced with their CMS.

After interviewing some of my editor friends, I have compiled a list of the biggest challenges they come across in their content workflow and the tools they use to run their newsroom effectively.

Biggest Challenges Faced by Editors

  • Most of them have been struggling with managing outside contributors 
  • Collaboration is not smooth, and editors have to put in extra effort to bring everyone on the same page
  • Training of new staff
  • Central repository of assets, ideas, all content (published, draft, or rejected mode)
  • Manual copy and pasting of the content  and re-uploading of multimedia content from the other publishing tools & plugins into their existing CMS
  • CMS doesn’t sync with their workflows, tools and softwares they use

Tools and Softwares Used by Online Publishers

Tools and Softwares Popular Softwares in the Category
1. Spreadsheets Excel, Numbers, Google Spreadsheets, Office 365
2. Documents Word, Pages, Google Docs, Office 365
3. Shared Folders Dropbox, Windows Shared Folders
4. Project Management Softwares Basecamp, Asana, Trello
5. Calendars Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal
6. Emails Gmail, Outlook
7. Instant Messengers Gtalk, WhatsApp
8. Plugins and hacks for open source CMS Editflow, Userrole editor for WordPress
9. Enterprise Social Software Yammer, Grou.ps, Hipchat
10. Wikis for sharing style guides and common templates Mediawiki, Mindtouch, SocialText

… But these tools don’t talk to each other

Even after spending time, resource and money on these tools, you will realise two harsh facts:-

  • first, that they just don’t talk to each other
  • secondly they don’t sync with existing CMSs

Your team is constantly switching between different softwares or browser panes for even basic tasks like checking out status of a story, comparing different versions of a story, reading guidelines, managing media assets, referring to style sheets etc. A simple revision request can be buried under multiple email threads between editors and contributors. A workflow build out of these tools is not even sustainable forget scalable.

A successful editor is as good as his capabilities in delegating tasks and tracking the deadlines. A long term relationship with the freelance workforce needs transparency, clear set of expectations, and well defined deliverables. If editors and collaborators are constantly juggling with various tools, the relationship will be hard to survive.

You need to invest in a workflow which not only encourage collaboration between contributors but also free editors from administrative tasks so that they can focus on their core functionalities.

In Quest for a perfect Workflow

A well defined workflow must have following things.

1. Content Plan – Plan for your newsroom based on various skills and capabilities of your team (internal and freelance) in mind. A good editorial calendar  can help you a lot. A well defined content plan is building block for a transparent and functional newsroom. It brings everyone on the same page and set well defined deliverables and milestones for everyone.

Even your freelancers will have a clear picture of how much work they can expect from you every month.

2. Delegation – Clearly define the deliverables and deadlines for your external team. Ideally every assignment should have a deadline and properly delegated to the team member working on it. An assignment which require multiple team members, should have due dates for every team member. You also need tools and dashboard to ensure there aren’t any bottlenecks in the newsroom or any team member is assigned more work than his or ger regular capacity.

3. Robust Workflow – Content in form of assignment will flow in your newsroom from one team to another. You should be able to create flexible workflows depending on your content production needs. If implemented correctly, these workflows a will save of great amount of time and will help you run a smooth and functioning newsroom.

4. Content Templates – They can save you a lot of training time for the new freelance staff. Content templates can contain basic guidelines, style-sheets and your editorial requirements for different content types that should be distributed along with assignments.

5. Real time reports and notifications – Editors and contributors should be able to track assignments they are working on. Your freelancers should not complain of long delays in knowing the status of their work after submitting to editors. On the other hand your editors should be able to see in real time who is doing what. There should be proper notification system alerting editors and team if any assignments goes beyond its deadline.

6. Grouping of team members – If you are managing a medium to large team, you are bound to have varied skill sets in your teams with common user role. Grouping or pooling teams based on frequent contributions (reliability), skill sets or expertise, working roles (copy editing, research) etc will help you plan and delegate work.

7. A single organisation wide system  – Multiple tools increases complexity and training time. These tools also come with updates on different intervals. Creating a system that syncs all these tools require great effort. I have seen team members wasting a lot of time copy and pasting content from one tool to another.

8. People Analytics – Google Analytics is great for giving you insights about your content. But you also need insights on your team as well. A good people analytics should be able to identify bottlenecks early in the process. You also need to identify your best freelancers so that you develop better relationships with them.

9. Metrics and Dashboard for Freelance Staff – Almost all systems gives you metrics for your internal team. But don’t you think if freelancers also have access to their metrics, insights and feedback, they can also fine tune their skills and relationships with your editors.

Is there a ready solution?

A good content collaboration platform like Betaout  will not only help you expand your coverage but will free up time of your editors and core team from time consuming administrative tasks. Your core team should not be strained under non-productive cores which can be automated. Their time should be better utilised in implementing your publication’s content strategy.

To understand more, how Betaout platform can help you streamline your content collaboration between your internal and freelance team click here.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment