Behind the Slice: Editorial Calendars
by Adam Kuban
One thing I’ve been meaning to do over the last, oh, year or more is institute an editorial calendar for Slice and AHT. But I’m of two minds on this.
Since I’m more a pessimist than anything, I’ll list drawbacks first:
Losing Blog Cred
Blogging , as I see it, is supposed to be a freeform, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda thing. Setting up calendars and deadlines smacks of old-school, mainstream media convention. Will readers respond as well to something that seems to be morphing into more magazine format, with recurring columns and features?
Creating Unnecessary Pressure
If I’m tired after a long day of work or am spending the evenings or weekend days with friends or “Girl Slice” (aka “The Hamburgirl,” as she’s known on AHT), am I really going to be able to stick to a self-imposed structure? If I set a certain day that readers can expect reviews to appear, will I have the energy to always publish them, even if I’m dealing with writer’s block?
Predictability for the Reader
The first point above is a bit of a straw man. I come from an old-school, mainstream media background, so I appreciate the structures and protocols in place for shoveling content around efficiently and getting it out to people. There’s no doubt that blogs could take a page or two from what some derisively refer to as the “MSM.” One of those things is providing readers with a sense of continuity and predictability. Predictability sounds staid and boring and static, but it’s really not a bad thing.
Let me explain. I like how Eater, for example, has recurring features. I know to expect Bruni Betting on Tuesdays, Listage on Wednesdays, and so forth. If I’m pressed for time and have to make a decision between visiting Eater and, say, some blog whose publishing schedule I don’t know (Slice or AHT, for example) and which might not have been updated that day (Slice or AHT, for example), I’m going to spend my minutes on the known quantity. (Caveat: RSS readers make this point moot to some extent, but not everyone is mainlining feeds the way I—or probably you—do.)
Predictability for the Blogger or Blogging Team
Thinking about, and putting in place, a calendar to publish by helps define goals and gives you and your team something to strive for. Not that I’ve instituted my calendars yet, but I’m betting that when I do, I’ll feel more obligated to meet my own deadlines — especially if people are watching. We’ll see. I know myself and I know I hate being obligated to do anything, but I’m hoping I can stick to the schedule.
If your editorial calendar includes dates (instead of simply listing which days of the week you’ll publish given material on), you’ll be better equipped to anticipate topical and timely subjects to blog on. The most obvious examples being holidays.
Pizza and burger gift guides are obvious blog fodder during the year-end holidays. For Hanukkah this year, I plan to add a little menorah in the banner with the smiley slice guy (right) representing candle flames, each day adding a slice. On Joey Ramone’s birthday, I know to rerun Slice’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Pie School post, with updates as needed.
Weighing the Options, Planning a Calendar
As you can see above, the pros outweigh the cons. And I think there are at least a few more pros but want to wrap up this drivel. I think my own calendars set reasonable goals for the sites. They add a couple new regular features to both blogs, but what I’m mostly doing is adding structure to things I’m already doing. Some thoughts on creating a calendar of your own …
Change Doesn’t Need to Be Drastic
As I see it, you don’t need to go too crazy to make an editorial calendar. Most bloggers are probably already blogging items that could be made into recurring features. Look at your categories, see what type of material pops up over and over, and think about publishing them on a set schedule as a recurring feature — give it a catchy name, and half your work’s done.
Work Ahead of Publication
My aim is to have a certain number of the new feature installments in the can before going live with them, so that I’ll be working a few weeks ahead of publication. Lead time is important in keeping regular, especially if you have to talk to someone for a review or for a piece of original writing or if you’re doing mini interviews. (Sneak preview: I’m working on “8 Slices” and “Grilled” as weekly interview features for Slice and AHT, respectively.)
Looking to the Future
And so this rather long installment of Behind the Slice draws to an end. Tonight, I plan to draw up a list of preliminary interview questions for “8 Slices” and “Grilled” and run the “Grilled” items by “Hamburger” Matty, who works with me on AHT, for his input. With any luck, I’ll send out the first round of emails to prospective subjects tomorrow, and these columns will become a reality soon. As always, we’ll see. We will see.
Until next time, hasta la pizza!