Publish or Perish: Creating Consistency and Motivation with an Editorial Calendar

By Alt Channel Teacher Chris Gardner. Photography by Geir Arne Brevik.

Whether you’re the only person contributing to your blog, or you’re part of a team, your site needs an editorial calendar. Even if you don’t think you need one, your blog deserves it. When you maintain a blog, you’re a content creator. An online content creator without a calendar is like a brick-and-mortar store without business hours, or a magazine without regular publication schedule.

Your readers may never be aware of your publishing schedule, but creating an editorial calendar is your way of fulfilling your promise to them: “my blog is a place where you can get your content fix, which is why you come here in the first place.” When your content is consistent, you’re letting your community know that they can continue to trust you to share your unique take on your topics or interests.

It’s January, so there’s no better time to start an editorial calendar for 2013. If you can’t plan for the whole year, plan for a few months. If you can’t plan for a few months, plan by the week. Here are a few ideas to stay current, on-topic, and challenge yourself to explore new things:

Daily - Publish when your readers are online. Use an analytics application to find out the best time of the day to post. Even if you only post a few times a week, having your homepage change during high traffic times teaches your readers to expect new content during that time. This will help turn a few visits into many more.

Weekly - The best way to develop a consistent schedule of content is to create regular features. Post a series that you want to write about, that is on topic, and most importantly, that is fun to write. Start with one a week, and stick to it for at least six months. You’ll be surprised by how empty your site will become without it.

Monthly - Many large sites have monthly showcases that explore different aspects of their main area of interest. Choosing these well in advance gives you both the vocabulary and the motivation to create original, high-value content. Start out by choosing 3-6 non-holiday and non-seasonal themes to cover. Think of them like chapters in a book. Make sure you write about one of them at least once a week. Before you know it, you'll be cranking out fresh, original content at an amazing pace!

Yearly - Think of one thing you’re not doing yet, and do it this year. Look at what other sites in your niche do well, and add one of them your editorial calendar. Think of original content like: tutorials, shopping guides, roundups, personal narratives, reflections, reader-generated content, partnerships with others, etc. Publish one of these posts at least six times, though challenge yourself to create twelve-fifteen.

Some of us are so glued to a calendar, it can be hard to be spontaneous. Include “free times” in your editorial calendar. Once a month, schedule two hours for yourself to be creative, and make something on-the-fly. You may be on the other end of the spectrum, and you work well without sticking to a concrete schedule. Think of your blog as a community of readers, not the online version of your lifestyle. They deserve regular, on-topic, original content.

Join Chris in his class, Managing your Editorial Calendar, January 29th 8pm ET for more editorial planning tips.