How Digital Publications Churn Great Content Consistently?
I have been reading The Ken a small digital publication that delivers insightful and well-researched articles directly to your inbox. They write articles on business, technology and health in the Indian subcontinent. The niche doesn’t matter — it’s their process, which I found to be interesting, and something that freelance writers should adopt too.
They did an explainer series for a month, spelling out all the entire process of publishing.
Here are a few highlights:
- The idea is first pitched to an editor, and only once the editor approves the pitch, the writer would begin their research and writing.
- Writers and editors have a long discussion to go through the first rough draft.
- The roles and responsibilities of a ‘writer’ and an ‘editor’ are carried out by different people — it helps people in focussing on one activity.
- Data analysis, illustration, etc. is done much later in the process to build the narrative — it’s like adding whistles and bells once the tree has been stood up.
- There is a graphics team that ensures all their formatting, style and imagery is inline with the publication branding guidelines.
- The publication does most of the pre and post-publishing promotion — the writer’s job is to focus on writing alone.
- An in-depth story covering a business/industry can take anywhere between two to five weeks to publish depending on the length of the story, the editing effort involved, and the schedule of the publication.
So, if you are an independent writer or a freelancer, firstly be proud of the fact that you are a one-man army and you do all of that on your own.
Now, if you wish to create quality articles comparable to the quality of a publication, you need to establish a process to churn out quality content each time.
How you can copy the process
1) Maintain a schedule
Create a timeline of when you would publish articles — work backward to draft, edit, and pitch to publications to meet those timelines.
Maintain this schedule for a reasonable period to build a writing and, more importantly, a publishing habit.
2) Produce timely content but not at the cost of quality
Consistency is the key with creating content. Quantity breeds quality. The more frequently you write, the better you get.
Words start flowing, ideas keep rolling, and you continue upping your game.
But if ever in doubt, choose quality. A quality article will take you farther down the road than a poorly written one published on time.
3) Create a personal brand
Create a unique branding for yourself — it could be your landing page, profile, social media bios, the images you use — if there’s a certain consistency in what you do, it creates trust in the minds of readers and they find your writing authentic.
4) Batch similar activities for higher efficiency.
You may not have the luxury of an editor or a graphics team. But you can employ a simple productivity hack to make it sustainable.
Focus on one activity at a time.
Tim Denning, one of the highest-paid writers on Medium, dedicates two entire days to writing alone. He also batches similar activities, such as finding images and editing in dedicated periods as well.
Toni Karaza, a freelance copy editor cum author, uses a “batched scheduling” method to maintain discipline while working as a freelancer. The concept is similar — with several client requirements, he used to cut himself too thin across different projects. That’s when he thought of scheduling similar activities into his calendar to gain synergy of work.
5) Use audience poll as your pitch
As an independent writer, you may not have an editor to pitch your story and validate your idea, which means sometimes you might waste time on bad ideas or publishing poorly written first drafts.
Unless you can hire an editor, this part remains with you. And you’d pick up editing as you publish more content and upskill yourself.
But you can still validate your ideas.
You can avoid this by doing a quick poll on the internet — ask people in the forum what they think about an idea or a title.
You’d can get a fair sense from this audience poll whether to continue to write that article. Use it sparingly or else you risk being the annoying poll master in the group.
Before you go
The other interesting trick to learn more about successful publications is to study them — understand the type of content they churn, the writing voice they have developed (aggressive, feminist, centrist or humorous), and the type of authors that usually write on those topics.
This would help you in establishing a similar process for developing your writing/publishing schedule.
Happy writing and publishing!