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Editorial Calendars: A Digital Publisher’s Best Friend

  |  October 5, 2012   |  Comments

Creating an editorial calendar is one of the easiest ways to manage your stress, leverage your content strengths, and grow readership for continued success.

If you're an independent digital publisher then you're probably feeling excited to be working on your own as a content creator and maybe even took the leap by leaving your day job to pursue your passion full time. Taking this step, though exhilarating, can feel overwhelming and stressful when thinking about consistently growing your audience. Without a plan to ensure the sustainability of your site (and your creative energy), these feelings can intensify and lead to reactionary decisions, which may address the emergency on hand but don't lead to long-term success.

At my company we work with publishers who have successfully grown their site for years. One tip that is tried and true, but underutilized, is the editorial calendar. Creating a daily plan for what you'll write about in advance will reduce your stress, increase traffic, and allow you to spend your limited energy on the most critical decisions, which don't include what you'll write about each day. Creating and sticking to an editorial calendar may seem like a no-brainer but it's amazing how few publishers adhere to one. Now that I've hopefully convinced you to create a calendar, here's how to get started:

  1. Content audit. The first step is to determine the topics you'll cover each week. Perform a content audit of your own site and identify the categories most of your posts fall under. For example, if you write about women's beauty then you may find most of your posts are about cosmetics, facial products, hair products, hairstyles, and beauty tutorials.
  2. Analysis analytics. Now that you understand your content categories, compare them with the posts that generate the most traffic by analyzing your site analytics. You may find that while most of your categories perform well, there may be a few that don't, so either include aspects of these topics in your stronger categories or drop that category altogether. The goal here is to whittle down your topics to the strongest ones.
  3. Planning. You've done the hard work of narrowing down your categories so creating your calendar will be easy. Draw one out on paper (or use a spreadsheet) and write down the days of the week. Next, insert your topics on a separate day of the week - one on each day. Place the categories that generate the most traffic earlier in the week when there are more eyes online and weaker ones later. Consider whether you want to post new content on the weekends or just Monday through Friday. The result will be your rough editorial calendar. To use the women's beauty site example from earlier, Monday might be cosmetic posts; Tuesday, beauty tutorials (they generate the most traffic); Wednesday, hairstyles, etc. Lastly, write in your ideas for posts under each day of the month abiding by the category set for each day.

Congrats, you've just created an editorial calendar!

As you begin using your new editorial calendar remember that it isn't a static document but rather an evolving guide. Make changes as you receive feedback from your readers through their comments and page views.

In short, creating an editorial calendar is one of the easiest ways to manage your stress, leverage your content strengths, and grow readership for continued success.

Calendar image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laney Whitcanack

Laney Whitcanack is Federated Media Publishing's chief community officer. Prior to joining FM, Laney co-founded BigTent in 2006 and focused on innovating online and offline ways to connect people with communities they care about. She spent the decade previous to BigTent coaching and training hundreds of community leaders, in the U.S. and Mexico, most recently as the director of community programs for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

A published author and speaker on entrepreneurship and community organizing, Laney received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2008. She is currently a board member of Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum and The Princess Project and is involved in even more community groups after the birth of her daughter, Campbell, last year. Laney has a B.A. from UCLA, and MBA from the Simmons School of Management, and an Ed.M from Harvard University.

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