What is editorial consultancy?
The BBC website has a budget that most other sites can only dream of and this has inevitable advantages.
They can employ people to work in roles that other sites simply couldn’t justify – two such roles are ‘senior development journalist’ and ‘senior editorial analysts’ – roles I held for several years.
My task was to give thought to how we could achieve editorial aims but without resorting to hiring more people. How could we maintain and ideally increase site traffic as hungry new rivals emerged? How could we keep loyal users but also appeal to those residing on social media? How could we dominate search traffic when people were using Google to seek information we had on site.
I have included examples of the questions I spent months pondering below.
What I can do is bring this expertise to your site. I promise to find areas of improvement that you can enact without having to spend a penny on new tech or extra staff – there will also be suggested enhancements that might cost a bit but can be undertaken as you see fit.
Whatever your aims for the site, whatever challenges you face, I can bring the focus that helps you achieve results.
It might also be necessary to go back a stap further. Do you really know what your site aims are, or have you falling into a habit of doing things a certain way without really querying whether a change might be beneficial.
At the BBC, we had the luxury of time and resource to ponder these questions, most places don’t have this luxury.
Most places also don’t want to hire someone full time to ponder these queries.
Frankly, there is no need. What is typically required is a one-off piece of work to help the site focus on areas for improvement and adjust editorial practices accordingly.
A week’s work can have an impact that lasts for years.
Many sites live and die by their performance in acquiring traffic from search. I can help you target popular key words and topics and create regular content that leads to repeat visits.
I will also advise on when to publish – there are often crucial time periods when search spikes.
We will also look at how to plan, rather than being reactive. How can we predict the topics that will be searched for and so plan content accordingly? (one example – in a major football tournament, a relative unknown will always trend and there will be huge searches fir ‘Who is X?’ The sites that already have that information will gain huge traffic.)
For big events, which names do you need to cover almost regardless of what they say – for instance any quotes from Roger Federer or Virat Kohli have the potential to bring in heavy traffic from search regardless of how banal what they say might be. In golf, there will always be interest in Tiger Wood’s round at a major, even if he finishes the day tied 27th.
I had huge success at the BBC revamping onward journeys – the options users have for where to go next. I can do this for your site, showing how this one change can lead to site loyalty and start people circulating round the site.
I will help you focus on what the visitor to a page would be interested in next, this a key change from simply promoting other content on a similar topic, or items that are of internal importance but of little interest to the visitor.
It is very easy to get caught up in the big figures, for instance site visitors, total page views, video plays.
Those metrics matter, of course they do, but they might not be the metrics to really focus on. It might be, that the way to improve them is through actually focussing on other signs of success, alternatively it might be that you would accept a drop in some of these for success elsewhere.
To give an example, your site might get 10,000 users per month but there is little diversity within this group. It may be that you want to greatly increase the visits from certain groups of users and so need a change of approach to achieve this.
I can help you set bespoke targets that get to the heart of what you’re trying to achieve and then work with you to tweak editorial practices so you achieve these aims.
Much of my time at the BBC was spent working within sport, this a part of the site very much prone to peaks and troughs. If you’re the main broadcaster for the Olympics or World Cup, you’re going to see spikes in traffic at these times.
Peaks and troughs might be unavoidable – you certainly don’t want to flatted the peaks just to make the more fallow periods appear better. If you have record traffic because of a key event, just accept it, don’t worry that traffic in 12 months’ time might struggle in a direct month v month comparison.
I can help you frame this key concern in different ways.
We can look at how to take advantage of the peaks – if you are seeing lots of new users how can you make some of them become loyal users who stick around post event?
The quieter periods can also be addressed – what can you have ready to go for these periods? If there isn’t major news or live events to bring people in, what other forms of content might cut through to the audience?
You can also use the quieter periods for experimentation and to make the changes that have long-term impact. When a site is at its busiest, it can be nose to the grindstone, everyone working hard just to produce copy and content. The quieter times are when you can take stock. Assess your goals – are they the right ones, what else do you want to achieve, which new targets can be set and how can changes be made to help you achieve them?
You have limited resources, you might want to experiment but what trials have a high likelihood of being successful?
Learning from the successes and failures of other sites can greatly speed up your own site’s development. Some have had huge success in targeting certain groups of users – if you also want these users why not implemented,ent some of their tactics?
Learning does not mean outright copying from others or losing your own site’s identity. It simply means adapting proven strategies so they benefit your site.
Don’t cast envious glances at other sites, learn from what they are doing.
Some sites have large editorial and development teams and so it is possible to move people on to projects.
Most sites don’t have this luxury.
With the constant battle just to get all the day-to-day stuff done, there is simply no time to focus on development, nobody has the time or headspace.
That is where working with a knowledgable outsider for a short period can be of immense value. They have that head space, they are not caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your site, they also have experience of helping other sites develop.
By working with a consultant, you only need the time to answer questions and a willingness to be open about your site goals.
You want every piece of content on your site to be hard-hitting, insightful, potential award-winning journalism.
That’s great, but you also need to embrace my concept of the necessary evil, content that just brings people in. It is a necessary evil because it gets people on too your site, after that they hopefully might click on the stuff you are really proud of.
The key is balance.
You can’t produce content that lowers your overall reputation, it still has to be well made, but it might be something produced purely to get people in off search or social.
I worked on this concept at the BBC. To give an example, Michael Phelps swam against a shark for a TV show (disappointingly, it was a CGI shark) – this a story which on a busy day might be ignored. It’s a bit of fluff, not really top level sport.
However, writing the story brought in hundreds of thousands of people from search and social. The article had prominent links to other content, features on matters of editorial importance, exclusive video, the sign-up form for there sport newsletter.
The article wasn’t;t written to be award-winning journalism. It was written because 10 minutes’ work to fire off a 300-word piece could lead to a few hundred newsletter subscriptions and people who otherwise wouldn’t have come to the site moving on to see exclusive video and features.
To see a sample one-page overview report produced for a site, please use the link below.
The one-page report is, of course, just a top-level overview, the client received other documents going into far greater depth.
Want my initial thoughts on your site? What could be improved, how could you change things a little, what do I love about it? Get in touch and I’ll provide a free initial report – obviously this will work best if you give me a few details about your future aims for the site and the challenges you face.
I’m not an idiot…
I’m really friendly. Nobody wants someone to come in and say that everything they are doing is rubbish and that everything needs changing.
I am used to working with editorial teams, I’ve worked in editorial myself most of my working life.
My aim is to help you achieve your goals, not to criticise what your current approach.