Over the last couple of weeks as I looked over my metrics reports for my blog I realised I am going to need to bring in fresh blood if it is going to go any further. Originally launched with four bloggers there is only really me who posts to it in any real quantity with one other regular contributor. While not a failure as such the blog is being starved of content while I am busy with my work. So I just need to invite some people over and problem solved, right? Unfortunately it has not proved to be that easy.
We have established that blogging is actually surprisingly hard and many bloggers will not make it. Having blogging partners share the load is an obvious and possibly very enjoyable, potentially profitable arrangement. I have described the benefits of blog partnerships early in Performancing history (wow that seems like a long time ago). Perhaps my natural positive nature and wide-eyed optimism got the better of me, hah. Fact is just like with the majority of blogs where someone starts a blog and can’t keep the momentum, the same goes for blogging partnerships.
In theory the guilt-factor of letting someone down does keep a partner blogger working longer and harder than they would otherwise. Inevitably though the reasons for keeping going and the reasons for not will compete for attention and many bloggers, no matter how eager initially, will cave into external pressures or sheer laziness. Only a low percentage of bloggers stick at it, part of a team or blogging solo, paid or no.
Aside from financial incentives we have two choices; find bloggers who look like they will go the long haul or embrace the fleeting nature of the beast and allow a revolving door.
I have found the best place to look for long-haul bloggers are blogs. People who have maintained a decent blog for a length of time have proved they have that special something. This brings its own problem of what are you going to offer someone who already has a good blog. You will either need to make good friends with the person or need to incentivise somehow. There are intangible benefits of being in a writing team plus you can offer a cut of the proceeds. Inevitably this will need to be done carefully and sensitively, and best not to make promises you can’t keep. There is probably no point in even approaching someone who already has a lot of blog output, where will they fit you in to their schedule?
For me the choice is clear, I need to accept the people I bring on may not post for long, might turn out poor bloggers or might never contribute. I could put in a lot of effort to bring in others only to find I am still doing the majority of the work. The upside will be there might be some diamonds in the rough, plus if they only fill in on the days I can’t find time to even look at the thing that could still work.
The first place to look is the comments of your own blog. These people know what topics you often cover and do not need any introduction to your niche. I find with my own blogs though the majority of people who comment are already bloggers.
My approach for finding bloggers has been whittled down to observing regular contributors to good forums. People who spend as much time writing a forum comment as it takes to write a good blog post is going to be a good candidate. If they write entertaining and intelligent answers with bags of personality they are just what I am looking for. It sounds like a tall order but you have to remember you only need one or two posters for a blogs output to be transformed. There are stacks of forums with many many posters, not quite a needle in a haystack. The big benefit is these people might like to join you just for the fun of blogging, no promises on either side required. Bonus!
The downside to taking on people new to blogging is they need a modicum of training. Not exactly a three-week induction, but they will need some hand-holding.
Train them up, let them go
Obviously I recommend anyone new to blogging would find it easier to use Performancing Firefox rather than get to grips with an unfamiliar blogging system if between you they can get it configured. Otherwise many blog systems have quick-start tutorials.
You will need to teach them at least how to log in and post text. For the first little while you can probably make up the rest as you go along, editing their posts to your satisfaction along the way. If you make changes make sure you explain why and how. You might upset the blogger otherwise and it helps no-one if you make alterations forever, at some point you want them to be able to do this without supervision.
After you have shown them how to post you will need to get the blogger to post in your blogs house style.
You might think your blog doesn’t have a style but believe me once you allow others to post on your blog you will discover you need one, or at least the other bloggers don’t post exactly what you expected. Ok, you might be delighted with their output but I think it’s best to start with some basic pointers. Here are some examples you might want to use as ground rules:
- Be careful with images. Images are great to include with posts but ensure your bloggers are aware of copyright do not include massive files that throw out the template or slow down page load
- Impress on them to only write subjects of interest to the niche. It might seem obvious to you but believe me once some people start blogging they post anything that enters their heads.
- Get them to at least briefly check their spelling and grammar
- Make sure posts are formatted with good paragraph breaks etc. Readability is vital to maintain an interested audience.
- Use HTML, especially for links but also to wrap text around images, provide bold, etc.
- Be wary of new bloggers that they are not just out for links to their affiliates. No promotional posts or PR copy and paste
- If they reference someone elses post ensure they provide commentary, you don’t want to turn your blog into a proxy for del.icio.us or boingboing!
- Choose an appropriate categories – it is amazing how many posts are filed under “misc” or no category at all.
- Ensure no edits happen once a post is live. This infuriates RSS users!
If your blog software allows it, set posts unpublished by default so you get to decide what arrives in the subscribers RSS. This gives you chance to coach your bloggers, do some editing and make sure the quality is maintained while increasing volume.
It’s about people
In the end, for all the talk about blogging and style guidelines, the success or failure of any partnership, blog or otherwise, comes down to your ability to work with people. There is no predicting how well you will gel as a team and all you can do is work at it. Agree up front there will be a trial period and you might want to make it plain you retain veto on any changes or decisions.
Looking over this post I might have made it look like a lot more work than just posting yourself. It is a lot of effort but you would be glad you brought someone else in if you are ever too sick to post or would like a break, plus there is nothing better than making friends – that has to make it worth it.
Author: Chris Garrett
Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.
Raj, thanks for your comment on my profile. You are right and I will change that soon (just a second ago I did it 🙂 As my site is German I didn’t bother too much about promoting it here.
Well, thanks to Raj I have found the motivation and updated my profile and added two paragraphs telling the p.com world that I am looking for authors. Any feedback is welcome!
Yes, I’d love to see more. I’d especially like to see you address the business side of this — revenue sharing, dissolution agreements and other contractual issues.
Looks like Markus and Phil would like to see more on this, anyone else want us to go deeper into this topic?
I’ve been snatching moments here and there to create a writers’ wiki for our team blog Skype Journal. It includes a page on how/why to become a contributor, the process of guest blogging before you get your own account, a style guide (mostly an outline right now), the beginning of an editing checklist (crude), our beats (too many) and how we describe them (some of them) and prioritize them (not started on this yet), some templates for forumulaic writing (like product previews, reviews, event announcements, etc.), and the start of a colophon. We wrote a tutorial with screenshots on installing performancing for firefox and configuring it for our blog server.
My wishlist for topics in a continuing series…
Thanks for the post.
Phil Wolff, skype:evanwolf
Chris: Excellent post. All of it was insightful, but I think the last two paragraphs really wrapped it up well. What I miss most about publishing a print magazine is meeting up with contributors and editors for a drink or dinner, discussing things, etc. I guess that won’t happen again until real telepresence technology exists
Markus: As I learned while print publishing, finding writers is a matter of going to the right/write place. For example, visitors to your website are not necessarily going to be interested in writing. And despite the “blogging craze”, most human beings consider themselves particularly un-eloquent. So they don’t think they can write.
So where do you go, then? Why, Performancing.com of course – amongst other sites. Consider that any Performancing member that visits frequently will be relatively familiar with you. There is some trust there. And since us members are bloggers/ writers, we’re more likely to be your source of contributors than your site visitors.
Unfortunately, I went to your profile and did I find a link to that website you mention above? No. Suggestion: put the link to your site in your profile. As I understand the rules, you are allowed this in your profile.
Now, it’d be nice if the Perf-Boys created a forum where members such as yourself could announce that they were looking for partners, and briefly list the terms. What do you think, Nick? Chris? Andy?
it’s gonna be hard to get quality, consistency and maybe even quality. check out this article about how many people actually submit and make changes to ProductWiki. only one percent of their traffic contributes to the site.
i’m not sure if they’re average or not, though.
EDIT: wasn’t WikiPedia…
I just brought on two new writers on May 1. This month has been a trial period and June 1 I will decide if they made the cut. They did. One had no blogging experience so I had to get her up to speed on WordPress. It’s been fun having someone to collaborate with.
Thanks Chris. I *think* I found it.
I just opened up my one year old green lifestyle blog ( http://www.cityhippy.net) to what I have called Local Editors representing various UK cities and the results are good.
I think for me the points you make carry weight. Reliability and training are everything. They need to be of a certain standard.
Interestingly enough the motivations of some of the editors is that they get to promote their own blogs on a larger blog and for some other editors they get to promote their green businesses.
If you look through our archives Andy Hagans has written a little bit about the revenue part of blog networks, I am sure he would answer any questions you have
Good timing Chris. I’m having dinner tonight with a guy who has a (IMHO) valuable, but underutilized, domain. He’s interested in the idea of a blog, and I’m planning to pitch the idea of some sort of partnership. Do you know of any good resources on starting a blog network? I’m particularly interested in revenue split and dissolution arrangements.
Chris, a nice article, it should have been two or three.
The first subject in your article is about how to find people. This is hard as I am also learning right now with my new project.
Passive invitation: I had a sticky article on the front for a while calling for authors either in the main blog or in a sub-blog in a sub-domain. As I can see people read the invitation article and my blog was and is also recommended in the local blogosphere by local online media. But no direct reaction at all (until now).
Active invitation: I talked to people and friends who are interested in my niche and invited them to write from time to time about ‘something’. Beside saying ‘sounds interesting, I could try …’ nobody was willing to commit to write an article.
Political interests: Collaboration sounds nice but in the end everybody likes to stick where he is saying ‘we already do that, we never did that’.
Well, the above may sound negative but I am sure that out of hundred contacts one will work (some day).
The second subject in your article is training and the third subject is about editorial style directions.
Both subjects need an implemented editorial workflow and the possibility to gain editorial status. That’s one of the main reason why I decided to use Textpattern (TXP) and not a comfortable blog system like WordPress. TXP offers an editorial workflow and role models out of the box. The pre-defined Textpattern user roles and rights permissions are: none, designer, free lancer, author, editor, leading editor and publisher/owner). Of course the rights can be modified by an experienced administrator (Modifying User Account Roles and Privileges)
There is also a TXP plugin available which offers to hand over ownership of an article (not tested by me, ajw_admin_workflow).
Beside the role model every author can get/gain his own section (like the p.com blogs) and even his own section and article design.