Using a multi-person editorial model
If you're developing your site in conjunction with other editors, writers and producers -- or you hope to add to your staff in the future -- you should investigate a multi-person editorial model.
The downside of this model is the same you'll find with any team-based project: Conflicting personalities. Power struggles can get in the way of content and creative differences can prevent the site from quickly turning around on projects. Good management is vital to the success of multi-person sites.
Personality clashes aside, the benefits of multi-person sites are significant. The entire system is founded on delegation of responsibility, which, if organized properly, allows you to expand the breadth and depth of coverage. Multi-person sites can go to lengths single-person sites only dream about.
Below you'll find two variations on the multi-person model.
Site: Flak Magazine
Number of staff members: Ten core editors and designers oversee the site; 40-50 writers, editors and designers contribute to the site in varying degrees.
Description: Flak is an online magazine that offers broad coverage of politics, world affairs and pop culture.
Editorial model: This high-volume independent site publishes up to 10 articles a week. In order to meet deadlines, editorial responsibilities are shared among a group of editors.
Each of these editors is in charge of a specific Flak subsection. Writers interested in contributing to Flak send story ideas directly to section editors, and it's the editor's responsibility to accept or reject the idea. If accepted, the writer submits his or her story and the editor works with the writer to hone the content. Occasionally, the writer and editor disagree. "They don't make contact," says Flak editor James Norton. "The writer really wants to do it this way, the editor really wants to do it this way -- and those two part ways. That's not so typical but once in a while it happens."
Most of the time, the writer and section editor work through their differences and the section editor signs off on the piece. Flak's in-house policy requires two edits beyond the section editor, so when an article has received section approval, it's posted to a special, non-public "admin" Web page. Other editors download copies of the article from the admin page and make edits and suggested changes. It's at this point that Flak's democratic nature comes to the fore.
"Editors discuss and argue with each other the merits of pieces," Norton says. "And that's where the best parts of the publication come out in my mind, because people really have to articulate what it is they want to see in an article. If it came down to it we'd probably take a cold vote where every editor who voted would be worth one vote, if a piece was really contentious, and we'd go with the majority. We've never gotten to that point. We've always been able to talk it through and get some sort of consensus," Norton says.
Once an article has received the approval of two other editors, it's incorporated into Flak's publishing schedule by Norton and the managing editor. Timely articles can go live almost immediately, but on average most pieces are posted within 3-4 days.
Site: The Morning News
Number of staff members: Two editors oversee operations; six staff writers submit a story every two weeks; 13 contributors have written more than one story; 15 contributors have written a single story.
Description of site: The Morning News is a daily humor magazine showcasing features and essays.
Editorial model: Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, co-editors of The Morning News, take turns handling incoming content. Once decided on who's handling what, a Morning News editor works with the writer to bring his or her story through three editorial levels.
Andrew Womack explains: "We read [the story] and provide edits to the author in the following editing rounds, as necessary: 1) broad direction suggestions; 2) specific word choices/sentence
structure; 3) grammar, punctuation line-editing. These may all occur in the same revision round or be spread across three iterations of the piece."
Once stories receive editorial approval, they're added to the publishing schedule. This schedule fluctuates depending on the amount of available content. "Sometimes there's a lot to work with, other times not," Womack says. "In the last six months we've had a lead time of two weeks, and [a lead time of] one day, and we've finished writing articles the morning of publishing. It can go either way. Though we obviously prefer having the schedule, sometimes there's not a whole lot you can do."
Regardless of how much content they have in their queue, all articles are published by 9 a.m., Eastern.