How to manage a proper multi-author WordPress blog

18 Comments

One thing I spend some amount of time thinking about each week is managing my multi-author blog at WPCandy. There are only a handful of authors that have joined WPCandy in the last year, but we’ve still spent a good deal of time improving our workflow as a multi-author blog. I’ve even picked up a few (what I would call) tips in the process.

If you find yourself in a similar position, hopefully some of these tips will help you along. If you run a blog with a number of authors, be sure to jump down into the comments and share your experiences too.

Establish a team blog

If you want your team to feel like, well, a team, they need a place to come together and chat about what they’re working on. One hundred percent of my team of contributors is distributed all over the planet, so if we didn’t have a team blog of some sort we all wouldn’t have as many chances to talk.

I’ve opted to use the P2 theme from Automattic, because like many others I think it fits nicely between the traditional blog and a chat room. I’d recommend setting up a private P2 instance at a sub domain of your site, like at team.yoursite.com, and making sure that everyone on your team is always able to use it.

In addition to P2, I’ve found that using Subscribe to Comments and Subscribe2 cover our bases when it comes to post notifications. This is also just a matter of preference, but I like to keep a list of useful links in the sidebar of the P2 blog along with a list of all the authors on the blog.

Of course you don’t have to use P2. The key is to have a location where your team can easily chat about what’s going on. Do whatever works best for your particular group.

Establish proper author/editor capabilities

This one will highly depend on your needs, but in my case I’m kind of a (what’s the word?) control freak. Because of this I still personally edit every word that gets published on WPCandy, so authors on WPCandy don’t have the ability to publish but can only submit posts for review.

There are a couple of ways to do it, but I opt to manage capabilities using Members by Justin Tadlock. Really I haven’t done much more than remove the publish capability from authors.

Just as important as the technical side of things is making sure that roles and abilities are known by your editorial team. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them and what they can do on their own, either using a team blog (see above) or help text (see below).

Use Edit Flow

I tried the Edit Flow plugin around a year ago, and just didn’t think it was quite there yet. I’m happy to say that wherever the aforementioned there is, Edit Flow is squarely in the middle of that location. The developers, led by Automattician Daniel Bachhuber, released version 0.7 this week and it brought some features that really got me excited to use it—features like a drag and drop editorial calendar:

In short, Edit Flow is a plugin that gives your WordPress Dashboard a newspaper-like editorial workflow. Along with the editorial calendar I mentioned above, Edit Flow gives more granular control over post statuses (like Pitch, Assigned, and Changes Needed in addition to Draft and Pending Review), enables author-only editorial discussion of posts as they come together, and  allows authors and editors to be notified when changes are made to posts.

Before Edit Flow the WPCandy team was using a ticketing system—on a sub blog using WooThemes’ FaultPress, actually—but the changeover was worthwhile. The old system, while it worked, also required a layer of translation between the ticketing system and WPCandy itself. When a post was started in one place, a ticket in another place had to be updated. Notes for the post (sources, contacts, etc.) had to be pulled from the ticket and used to write the post. And when a post was published, the ticket elsewhere had to be updated again.

Kind of a mess, right?

There’s nothing wrong with FaultPress, of course. Edit Flow is just perfect for multi-author blogs because it streamlined this process so that it all happens in one place.

Author checklist for post submissions

This is one of those tips that is useful not only for your site’s authors, but likely for yourself (at least it was for me). As you edit and publish content on your blog, pay attention to the steps you take over and over. If there’s a way to streamline those steps, such as setting a new default category to better represent the majority of your content, then definitely do that. But for other things it’s worth maintaining a checklist.

I’ve resorted to posting the checklist to the team blog or our help section (see below) but I’ve also see options like Blogging Checklist before. I haven’t tried it myself, but it could be something useful if your authors need to run down a few key steps for every post they write.

In general, though, communicate best practices to your authors to make the editing process (and hopefully the writing process, in the long run) as efficient as it can be.

Proper author attribution

If you have other authors on your blog it’s important to give them credit where it’s due. You want them to know they are receiving proper credit for their work, but it’s also important to make sure readers know who they’re reading.

Bylines are the most important thing to get right here. As an author, seeing your name presented prominently next to your work is important. It’s important at such a basic level, really, that it’s weird to mess this one up.

And as a reader, I can’t tell you how disappointed I end up being when I find out a post I’m looking at doesn’t have proper author attribution. I want to know who I’m reading just as much as what I’m reading.

If you wonder exactly how you should pull this one off, a good rule of thumb is to put other author’s names in the same place you’d put your own. In addition you might consider an area, perhaps beneath the post, where more information about the author is given. We have used these on WPCandy for a while and they tend to work pretty well.

One of my favorite social WordPress plugins is WordTwit from BraveNewCode. WordTwit is a handy plugin that will tweet out messages (either automatically or manually generated) when you publish new posts. In a recent update they made it really easy to automatically mention the author’s Twitter name in the tweets, and we’ve started using that here for the bulk of our posts. For a site like ours, where a lot of our community and traffic comes from Twitter, I think it’s important to give credit to post authors there too.

Set up author emails

This isn’t something you can set up within WordPress itself, but believe me when I say it will make your multi-author blog all the more professional. I prefer using Google Apps to run my domain-specific emails, and I highly recommend it, but honestly use whatever you have to and get that done.

Not only will having [email protected] give your authors a sense of ownership in the site, but it will make their emails with people for your site all the better.

Share a group RSS subscription

I talked before about the number of RSS feeds I follow to keep up with WordPress company and project blogs. It’s quite a few. One small but helpful way to make the process of tracking new and interesting stories a bit easier is to open it up to the rest of your team and allow them to review potential story ideas too. This one will take a good deal of trust in your authors, but it can really be worth it once you have more than a few feeds/sources that are updating daily.

For the group RSS account I use one of my Google Apps emails set up with a Google Reader account. I have intended to move the various Twitter accounts I follow into one that the whole team can use, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Maintain author help texts

You can establish this copy anywhere you like, really, but I prefer to keep as much within the bounds of the WordPress Dashboard as I can. It keeps things simpler and, to be honest, I just like it better.

So I really like WP Help, a plugin by Mark Jaquith that lets you keep help text for the authors on your blog.

There are other ways to maintain this sort of information, but this one’s my favorite. In our help section we try to keep things like:

  • what to do as a new author on the site,
  • tips for writing posts,
  • how to use our taxonomies properly,
  • the types of images we generally like to use,
  • WPCandy logos that authors can use, and
  • how to modify the parts of the site they can modify.
I find these documents most helpful when it comes time to bring a new author on board. As long as things are up to date, I have to do little more than direct them over to the help section to get them rolling as a contributor.

How about you?

There are undoubtedly more things to consider when running a blog with more than one author. I’ve based these tips only on my own experiences, which aren’t even that expansive. If you’ve run a multi-author blog (using WordPress or even something else) please jump down to the comments and share your experiences and tips.

18 thoughts on “How to manage a proper multi-author WordPress blog

  1. Awesome post with lots of great tips – I love the team blog idea. Thanks for a peek behind the scenes at WPCandy. I wonder if you got the idea for this post from my forum topic though..?

  2. I run a multi-author geek culture site and we actually use a pretty similar workflow. We’ve been using Edit Flow since last year but mainly use it for the editorial calendar. As the admin, I appreciate getting email notifications when a new post is created or the status is changed too.

    We’ve also been using Google+ as our go-to collaboration forum, sharing ideas and tagging each other. It’s been a pretty good place for discussion.

  3. This is very enlightening Ryan, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been using Edit Flow to manage our authors and it’s been incredibly helpful. We’ve also had some success with allowing potential authors to submit articles without being added as users by using Gravity Form’s Post Fields feature to submit articles for review.

    I really love the implementation of the WP Help plugin and that’s definitely something I’ll be adding for out Authors as many of them come from a traditional Business and Marketing background and aren’t as familiar with WordPress as most of us here.

    Thanks again for sharing your process and doing your part to help bring Internet publishing to a wider audience:)

    • This is a nice way, it makes it easy for authors to submit their posts directly to your blog without having them registered, I am actually doing it the other way, I use Gravity Forms to signup authors to the blog, then they can submit their posts from inside the Dashboard.

      My next step is to add another form like yours so they can submit posts as pending for review without having to get into the dashboard.

    • Excellent point about using Gravity Forms to submit post drafts. I should have included that, since we do use a form of that. I’ll make a note to come back and update this post soon. Thanks Adam!

  4. Hey Ryan, really good stuff.

    I wish there were some level of trust that help multi-authors blog’s owners to let go, for example give trusted authors permission to publish, but this is almost impossible, another dream I want it to be true!

    I am so interested in trying out the Edit Flow plugin, looks good to me, also the WP Help plugin, however not sure if I am going to use it as taking authors step by step away from the dashboard.

    I know that some bloggers would think differently about this, it depends on how you run the blog, for example some won’t bother if authors can see un-approved and spam comments, also draft/pending posts status when they access the dashboard. (which I think is not good thing)

    So, at some stage I thought to limit their access, and end with having another way for submission, I wrote a blog post explaining three methods to technically Handle Guest Bloggers on WP platform being running a multi-authors blog for more than two years, so I feel that I have a lot to say in this topic, really!

    mmm… Maybe I can use your opinion, do you think we should keep the access to WP Dashboard?

    • In general I’m not a fan of limiting access to the dashboard. I think there’s more to be gained by letting your authors/users be comfortable with it. I don’t think authors mind having access; most seem to prefer it.

  5. Great post Ryan, I’ve been adding contributors to my blog slowly over the last year but it’s all been a bit messy, I’m going to implement a few of these tips and hopefully things will get smoother.

  6. I’ve been looking for something like Edit Flow for ages now to manage the editorial aspect of our site. It’s pretty ridiculous and confusing at times. I’m absolutely going to implement some of these suggestions. Thanks Ryan!

  7. I run a multi author food blog and am always looking for ways of streamlining and organising our work.

    Edit Flow and the Checklist items are just what I was looking for. Thanks!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this post. Nowadays it may be easier to have more than one author write and post than to only have one. Depending on what your blog is about it may take up a lot of time. Having more than one author also allows for different voices and opinions to be heard.

    Knowing how to manage multi-authored blogs is an immensely important tool. You have to be able to see who is posting what and how often as well as seeing what needs to be reviewed in one little section instead of clicking around to find it. It’s also useful to know how to restrict access. Great and informative post!

  9. Hey Ryan,

    This is a great post. We are working on a new online paper for African Youth and reading this post has helped us think about a few thing. Definitely will try Edit Flow.

    Thanks,

Leave a Reply

Please note that WPCandy is a moderated community.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>