In our work to publish Mamalode Magazine, we rely entirely on user-generated content (writing, video, photo, etc.) — and we pay. Which means we get a LOT of submissions. If you also run a business that solicits a substantial amount of content from your customers or other pros, you know that open submissions are the equivalent of Open Season on your inbox. It’s a brutal assault of attachments that you lose, can’t search, and are continually drowning in.
Inbox overload usually happens during the curation stage of working with content (sandwiched between the creation and consumption stages). Master curator DK describes curation as an “emerging skillset,” a skillset that author Colin Wright calls a unique and valuable form of creation:
“Derided by some creators as drain on their craft, curation, when approached the right way, can add value for those who created the work it presents, those who consume it, and the curators themselves.”
If you’re like me, you probably use tools like RSS feeds and curate a wealth of content simply by being an avid consumer of information. Add submissions to the mix, and it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the curation process. Finding tools that allow a hurricane of content into a solid curation system is key.
At Mamalode, we have three major focuses on how to handle this storm:
1. Outline a clear content schedule.
We currently cap out at three posts a day on our website. Anything extra goes onto our social media platforms or our Tumblr blog. This allows us to plan ahead (the beauty of NOT being the news) and make sure we promote each piece in a thoughtful and individual way. Creating a content schedule is about pace and capacity. It is often a big shift in thinking about the Internet — so many people use the web in live time — you think it, you say it. You read it, you repost. A content schedule might look more like amassing a backlog of content and using the scheduling tools on your platform so that there is a steady stream of information. This is often better for the reader as well as the editorial staff (not to mention promotion of said content.)
Dig into your platform. What tools exist? Schedule what you can, and organize a series of triggers where a single act sets in motion a chain of events that range from automated backups to some promotion (being careful to not automate all promotion). Just remember: WHO is your audience and WHAT platform are they on and WHY? Don’t mess with them, and for heaven’s sake make sure you don’t conflict with the WHY they are there. The Internet is often a party. Make sure you get invited.
2. Take advantage of available tools.
Oh, thank heavens for the tools. We had the good fortune of being the beta testers for a submission platform called Submittable. I remember sitting in their office — which at the time was a ghost town of empty spaces — and them just waiting for us to say what we wanted it to do… “Um, well, can we send emails?” “Can we have an acceptance letter get automatically sent when we move it into the accepted pile?” … and they would nod, start typing, and every now and again look up expectantly while we thought of another feature. Submittable went on to Y Combinator and has grown itself into an exceptional tool for anyone who needs to accept, review and organize submissions of pretty much any type of file. It is brilliant and I’m proud to have watched it evolve.
3. Communicate processes and expectations.
Both within our company and to the larger community we serve, our editorial team is consistently improving our processes and raising our expectations. This growth is made possible only through talking, reframing, shaping, goal setting, resetting and talking again. Some of this goal setting happens based on numbers and analytics, some based on a continual feedback loop with our audience and sponsors, and some is simply based on the fact that WE ARE OUR AUDIENCE. When in doubt, we ask ourselves, “would I want to do/read/participate in that?”
For the external communication, we focus on making sure our writers know what to expect and give them every possible tool to succeed in both publication and promotion. We’ve made videos and flow charts so that writers understand what’s happening behind the curtain. One of the greatest features in Submittable is that we’re able to talk to the writer BEFORE they submit, DURING the process and after — people just want to know they aren’t forgotten — online or off. Talk to them.
The beauty of the time we live in is that there are always people solving problems. We have the opportunity to create chaos and then make it work better. It is a brilliant duet — call and response. By building clear channels for submissions you’re opening the door and welcoming collaboration. Online and off, collaboration is an indicator of success.
Open the floodgates and make something amazing.