Since we started working on Camayak, we’ve frequently asked our clients what tools they’re using to collaborate with their teams and external contributors. Competitive publishers require effective editorial collaboration, whether they’re traditional media, hyperlocal start-ups, college media organizations or blog networks, so it’s useful to get a gauge of who’s using what and why. Increasingly, streamlining content production and finding the quality/cost tipping point has become essential for organizations that may not have physical newsrooms, are increasingly staffed by freelancers and need to produce more content to retain the attention of their long-tail audience.
We were recently asked to compile a report on a cross-section of the editorial workflow practices that we’ve observed in the US publishing industry, for both traditional and non-traditional content-driven businesses. Most of the trends are well-documented - such as digital-first publishing, decreasing syndication costs and the rise of blog-driven SEO competition. As part of our report, we’re also including a break-down of the models and services that publishers are adopting, to focus on the infrastructure of their content organization as a core component of a successful production process.
For those of you looking to streamline your editorial organization, contributor management and content workflows, here are 10 editorial management tools that we’ve grouped according to common goals that we’ve heard publishers set themselves, when looking to upgrade their production environment.
Improving engagement and task management
For community-run publications, businesses or college media that aren’t the sole source of income for their staff and contributors (and therefore experience higher turnover), one of the biggest challenges is reducing the amount of resources required to train new staff, explain guidelines and keep everyone on the same page. The lighter the load, the better the individual engagement (and potential productivity), per staff member. Google Apps is free for non-profits and teams with up to 10 members and costs less than $50/user per year for anything above that, which makes Google Docs, Calendar and Spreadsheets a very useful, familiar combination of services for many publishers, both small and large.
Even with some customization however, Google Apps has its limits: particularly when onboarding new staff. Powerful as the tools are, because they’re generic enough to be combined in a number of different ways, new staff members are likely to require help to understand how their organization wants them to update each of the Google products that they’re touching. If you’re looking for workflow customization, Google Apps will come with training challenges, as one adviser at a California State University told us: “it works, but behind it all is a real mess”.
Camayak puts each assignment at the center of its newsroom workflow and contributor management. Production is streamlined with the help of a publishing schedule, flexible assignment creation and complete control over how your content gets from its first draft to being published. Staff build their profiles, edit content and publish directly to their CMS (full disclosure: this post was written, edited and published using Camayak).
Asana is a task management tool that offers flexibility for people to keep one another up-to-date with their priorities. The Sacramento Bee uses Asana to push tasks around the newsroom and keep track of what’s in progress and been completed. Assignment writing and editing happens elsewhere.
Desk-Net is most similar to Camayak but charges per user, instead of by assignment volume.
Managing external contributors
Outside of internal team editorial management, there are a number of services that assist with recruiting and working with freelance contributors. These are popular with corporate publishers and larger media companies who outsource much of their coverage to specialist contributors.
A writer management and payment system, with reporting tools on their productivity.
A TechStars-graduate company that has moved from ‘virtual newsroom’ management to ‘content marketing’, where contributors are sourced and paired with publishers looking to cover specific topics. Like Write Aid, Kapost charges according to user numbers and handles payment of staff.
Used by publishers such as the Los Angeles Times to source, pay and manage their freelance contributors. They appear to have more traditional publishing clients than Kapost and appear to offer deeper editorial workflow customization.
Arguably the most user-friendly freelance contributor management platform, which has had good reviews from companies who don’t have the resources to manage their own editorial processes. Part of the content marketing industry and also a TechStars-graduate.
Installing your own workflows
If you’re technically minded and have a good relationship with your editorial colleagues (or even better, are actually part of the team), then you may have implemented one of the following open source modules/plugins, depending on your CMS framework.
Sourcefabric is an open source community of journalists and developers who build tools for, you guessed it, journalists. Supported by the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) and with contributors from individuals and newsrooms all over the world, Superdesk is the latest tool to emerge from the group that directly targets workflow. If you’d like to customize Superdesk, Sourcefabric are on hand with services to integrate it into your newsroom.
Many people who use WordPress are publishers, so workflow is a common challenge that Edit Flow seeks to address. Here’s a presentation by Mo Jangda – one of Edit Flow’s developers – explaining why editorial management is a pain point for many publishers.
Drupal has its own workflow module that’s proven popular with larger media organizations. Highly customizable, it’s the equivalent to Edit Flow if you’re keen to invest in your CMS as a one-stop-shop for all your content production (as well as content display) needs.