3 ways to get more from your writers

Mikey 4 comments
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3 ways to get more from your writers

Finding the inspiration to write can be difficult at times. Contributing factors such as time restraints, previous commitments or even stress can sometimes make it near impossible to find the 10 minutes you need.

I designed, coded and manage the web site you are reading now. I have several contributors who add content when they can, each with varying levels of technical knowledge. With that responsibility I have a natural obligation to keep content as fresh and regular as my time allows. So with that in mind, I must lead by example, hence the dominance of my mug on the homepage.

So how do you encourage your fellow contributors to write more often? The idea for this article was spawned earlier today as I prepared the February stats report, which while analysing the data past and present, led me to the idea that at one stage or another, there were three main contributing factors which may have prevented my fellow writers from posting more often: Usability, Incentive and Communication.

We have our own custom design CMS. In the early days it had a lot of restrictions. You could not paste from MS Word, Special characters would sometimes cause problems (especially with the RSS feed), and the user had to assign an image to every article they published, which they had to resize and optimise themselves before uploading.

With that in mind, our CMS has been tweaked from time to time to make it easy. My suggestions:

  • Use a WYSWYG editor that allows pasting from popular word processor, yet still automatically strips out the crap code that typically comes along for the ride. You don't want to lose your W3C compliance after all.
  • If all articles require an image (this sites article images appear top right of the content), then make it so that if they forget or choose not to have an image with their article, then one stored on the server is automatically used in its place. Like your logo or something similar. This could save tens of minutes if the writer does not have to source, resize, optimise and upload an image.
  • Do not clutter the interface, and hide any WYSWYG controls that will never be used to avoid confusion.

The bottom line here is no-one wants to spend 15 or 30 minutes to do everything that is required before posting the article (apart from writing it of course). It needs to be as quick and painless as possible.

This is an obvious way to encourage anyone, but how to go about it when your writers are volunteers?

If your blog generates enough income from Adsense or any other advertising medium, then work out what percentage of it can be allocated to writers. You could base it on certain criteria. Like every unique visit is worth $0.02. So 1,000 unique visits for one of their articles would pay them $20. It doesn't sound like much, but 1000 visits is not an unrealistic goal and it doesn't take a math whiz to see that posting more often means more money. It's nothing they could make a living off (yet!), but if you post 2 or 3 times a week then you will easily be shouting drinks at the pub more often than not.

You can also teach them how to get more exposure for their articles, like submitting to social bookmarking sites. Take it a step further and pay a bonus for every x amount of comments generated from their article.

Consider adding milestones. When a writer reaches X amount of posts, use some of your Adsense revenue to pay them a small bonus. Just do your homework and be sure your advertising revenvue will be enough to cover everyone.

On the subject of exposure: If they write a potentially life changing article, they need to let people in the relevant industries know about it with a quick email. Arie's article about overcoming depression is a gold example, which led to a link exchange with the Movember effort and several other male health organisations linking to the story. The article unsurprisingly had more unique visitors than any other on this site during the surrounding weeks and still gets traffic today.

Knowing just how much traffic your articles are getting goes a long way to encouraging further effort from a writer.

Each month I compile a stats report combined from both Google Analytics and the standard AWStats package. I email this report to each writer so they can see that just because a particular article may only have 10 comments or less, it is hardly a reflection of its visibility. Anyone who blogs knows that on average an article will get 1 person out of 100 adding a comment. This is evident when they see the stats for their article they thought didn't get any attention (comments wise) still managed to get a few hundred or thousand exposures. It's an encouraging piece of information to share.

In addition to stats, I also send information to them about site changes, enhancements and I let them know I will always entertain their suggestions, most of which I have implemented into the site already.

Our regular readers have seen this site evolve many times, which is the result of feedback and suggestions from the people who contribute to it.

One final thing which is very important. Anyone who writes for your site needs to know they are not just some hired scribe. I refer to Rusty Lime as 'our site', not 'my site', not as a persuasive gimmick but because I truly believe the site belongs to everyone who contributes.

Like many others, we are but a blip on the massive blogosphere radar. I share these ideas in the hope others can also learn or contribute further ideas by commenting below.

Thanks for reading.

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Sunday 4th March 2007 | 12:16 AM

Good and useful article for anyone with a content website. I have found that when you do get volunteer contributors they more often than not are just happy to see there contributions posted on the net for others to see and share. Unless your a huge site pulling lots of cash them paying contributors can get very messy, and more me that's not the right motive :)

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Sunday 4th March 2007 | 11:13 AM

Thanks for writing this. We are startng to re-evaluate our current situation and we completey missed a lot of issues you rasied here.

Another tip if I may add with regards to social bookmarking sites, is don't rely on DIGG for the big break to slingshot your site into the spotlight because it probably wont happen.

I have seen intelligent thought provoking articles submitted to Digg only ever get a few digs, while the homepages is littered with "OMG - Funny cat with great ending - don't miss this!" (or other similar crap) at hundreds of digs.

If you are a struggling blog like us, then hang in there. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.

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Saturday 31st March 2007 | 11:00 AM

Payment is a good idea except we only make bugger all from adsense.

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Saturday 31st March 2007 | 04:37 PM

Thanks for the info. Wish we made more money from adsense :-(

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