October 22, 2014

A Warning to Multi-Author Blogs

Multi-author blogs are everywhere today, and new ones are being launched every day. This is in part a result of an increasing number of blogs being run as a business, rather than as personal journals. Having a team of writers is necessary for many blogs to produce enough content, plus readers benefit in terms of (potentially) higher quality content, more variety of content, and a mix of writing styles. However, there are also some potential problems that can wind up defeating the purpose of having multiple authors.

First, before going into the potential issues with multiple bloggers, it’s helpful to define a few different types of these blogs:

1 – Company with employees – Some of the larger blogs are actually a business of their own. These sites will have a staff of full-time writers that pump out a significant amount of content. Many of these blogs will be news-related and they make it essentially impossible for any individual blogger to compete with a team of writers for breaking news.

2 – Freelance writers with an editor – Other multi-author blogs that are run as a business will use a group of freelance writers instead of having full-time staff. This is obviously much lower cost. In these cases the writers will submit their articles to an editor, who will ultimately determine what gets published and when. Some examples of this type of blog are PSDTUTS, Freelance Switch, and Daily Blog Tips (although Daniel has recently moved back to being a single-author blog).

3 – Freelance writers with the ability to publish their own posts – On these blogs there is no editor that has to approve an article to be published. Each author has the ability to login, submit, and publish a post. There may or may not be an established posting schedule, but regardless, more responsibility is left to the writer without having an editor. PureBlogging operates in this manner.

4 – Multiple owners / team blog – In this case the writers aren’t freelancers or staff members, the blog is simply run by more than one person.

This excludes blogs that accept occasional guest posts, although they would essentially fall under #2, except the writers would not be paid.

A few specific blogs have recently felt the need to make changes to their approach due to a lack of effectiveness with the current number of authors. Both Blogging Tips and PureBlogging had experienced watered-down content by having a few posts each day. In both instances I think it was more a case of too many writers covering the same topics, rather than it being the fault of the individual writers.

For full disclosure I have been a writer at PureBlogging for about the past six months. Also, last year I wrote a few guest posts for Blogging Tips, although I was never a paid author there.

My opinion is that both blogs have improved as a result of the realigning and refocusing. PureBlogging cut the number of writers and posts in half, which allows each post a bit more face time with visitors, and it keeps readers from getting the same rehashed content. I’m not exactly sure how much was cut out of Blogging Tips, but I know that Kevin took a more strategic approach (you can read it in his own words) by having different writers cover certain topics on a recurring basis, and reducing the overall number of writers. From what I’ve seen as a subscriber I feel that the quality of content has improved with the new focus.

When looking at the types of multi-author blogs above, this problem is really only affecting the third type, those that have freelance writers with the ability to publish their own posts. From my experience, this approach can be good or bad. As we saw from PureBlogging and Blogging Tips it can be a serious challenge for a fairly large team of writers to be on the same page, all present unique content, adequately cover topics, and generally show a unified approach to the blog.

It’s not my intention to imply that any of the writers for either of these blogs is better or worse than other writers, simply that it’s difficult for a group of that size to have a unified approach. At PureBlogging we each had an assigned day of the week to post, but we all had the ability to publish anything. When there are 7 or 8 people writing in a five day period, it can be tempting to slip in a sub-par post and think that no one will really notice because it will just blend in with the other content. I know this for a fact, because I’ve been there myself. Plus, when you’re a freelance writer that has to get a post through an editor, it has to be good enough or it won’t get published and you’ll have to re-work it or not be paid for it. When you can publish your own content you’ll get paid for whatever you determine is good enough. I don’t think the writers of either of these blogs (myself included) abused this privilege, but it can be in the back of your mind when you’re developing a post.

David transformed PureBlogging into 3 writers plus himself, and the results have been positive so far. We still have the ability to publish posts without being edited or moderated by David, but there is a better focus and I think each of us feels like our work will now have more of an impact on the success of the blog.

I also write on another blog, Blogtrepreneur where I publish posts on my own, but right now it is just a team of Adnan and myself and it works out pretty well for us.

In general, my opinion is that if you are a blog owner and you plan to have multiple writers that can publish their own posts, keep the number of writers fairly small and stay as focused as possible. Otherwise, I would encourage you to act as an editor and determine what is published when. No one else will have the same amount of concern over your blog as you do.

I’d love to hear from others who own these types of blogs, those who write for them, and those who read them. What’s you opinion on the issue?

About Steven Snell

Steven is a web designer, blogger, and freelance writer.

10 comments

  1. I was recently talking with another blogger to publish our posts on 1 blog as we were covering the same topics and we’re still in the process of debating what to do.

    This post might convince us to publish on the same blog, who knows. And IF we decide to do it, it’ll be a 2 person blog, so not a big deal.

  2. Just got a pingback email about this post :)

    First of all, great post Steven. Obviously, since I own a multi author blog this is a topic that interests me.

    I think that, if run correctly, a multi author blog can be good for a blog. As I mentioned in the post you linked to in this post, I originally went it about it all the wrong way. I hired several bloggers who were all covering very similar topics. This ended up with many of the posts being very similar and it offered nothing new to the reader. It was a case of too many cooks spoil the broth.

    Recently, I parted ways with many of my staff because of this very reason. They were writing good posts but I wanted different topics covered on the blog so it didn’t make sense to keep them on. Presently on BT there are 8 authors including myself. All bloggers are given a direction about what subjects to cover so there is more variety in posts. For example, Sarah covers WordPress design and coding topics and Amanda covers the blogger format.

    Of course, there are a lot of pros from running a blog yourself however the weight that a multi author blog can take off the owners shoulders is immense. I dont know if David or Adnan feel the same way however I believe if I kept my initial blogging schedule up I would have burned out.

    For the first few months of the site I was writing about two posts per day and I soon realised that long term this was a schedule that I couldnt keep up. I didn’t want to just churn out any old post so for me, the multi author format was the right decision. Infact, on Tuesday I worked late into the night and the next day I just wasn’t in the mood for writing. Since I had an author scheduled to post that day it allowed me a day off. Sometimes its good to give your brain a break haha

    This format also gives me more time to write posts and I believe my own posts have improved because of it.

    With regards to keeping your writing team small. I agree with you on this however in practice this is sometimes difficult. I have asked a few of my weekly authors if they would like to post more often but unfortunately they don’t have time due to other committments. I’m very happy with their work though so obviously I’ll keep them on.

    Again, it comes down to, as you say, being a good editor. The more authors you have the more time you need to spend managing them.

    Once again, great post Steven. It will be good to hear other views on this subject (because obviously my views are biased!!)

    :)

  3. Mr Cooker,
    I’m glad this post is relevant to you right now. Good luck!

    Kevin,
    Thanks for the detailed response. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in this way. I really agree with all your points. I haven’t run a multi-author blog as of yet, but I have a lot of experience writing for them. From my experience there is no right or wrong way to do it, each blog is different and should be run accordingly.

    I know as a writer it’s a bit easier to do less than your best work when several others are posting at the same time. I’m not saying that’s justified when you’re being paid, but I think it’s just human nature that you really have to fight sometimes.

    I think you’ve done an excellent job of recognizing the weaknesses of Blogging Tips and really taken control of them and turned it into a positive situation. Having different authors covering different topics seems to be working well.

    I do agree with you that there are big benefits or running a multi-author blog. After all, those other blogs that I write for would have been put to rest or sold by now if the bloggers had not chosen to hire freelancers.

  4. Thanks Steven

    Yeah I think Adnan was going to sell his blog at one point but I’m glad he kept it. I think at the time he was just finding it hard to keep his online commitments on track because of his studies or whatever.

    :)

  5. Men with Pens is a multi-author blog, but we’re only two people. I agree with you – small is the way to go, for a number of reasons.

    1 – Doubling up on topics is rare.
    2 – Writers easily learn our different voices and personalities without being confused who’s writing this time.
    3 – We can cover for each other when needs be.
    4 – We each bring different perspective to situations.
    5 – No one burns out.

    There are drawbacks. Some of these include:

    1 – One author relying too heavily on the other if an agreement isn’t in place on posting frequency.
    2 – Occasional doubling up of topics. Avoid this by assigning a niche topic based on the person’s skill sets and experiences.
    3 – Differing tones, styles and qualities. But this does show that no one is a robot and no one is perfect. It adds uniqueness.

    Would we add a third person in? That’s tough and I don’t think so, no. Would we go back to single blogger? Not at the daily posting rate we maintain.

    I have to say I don’t like to read blogs with many posters. It becomes networky, stale and bland. Yuck. Give me just a couple of people that I can get to know, and I find it much more entertaining and interesting.

  6. Hey guys, sorry I’m in late on this conversation.

    Great article Steven, and of course like Kevin and James, an area which I’m heavily involved in.

    Kevin mentioned that he was nearly forced to start a multi-author blog due to the burnout he was experiencing. The same can really be said for me at Blogtrepreneur, however it all started in Summer 2007 through to Christmas 2007, where I was literally churning out a few posts per month. I felt extremely tired of blogging, and as a result, I nearly ended up selling the blog because of this.

    When the sale fell through (mainly due to the fact that traffic was stagnating along with revenue), I decided to pick things up again, but use the help of authors to help do that to traffic. Now initially, I felt that there were drawbacks, for example, some of my regular audience stopped commenting on the posts that I didn’t write, and eventually, I think they may have stopped coming back (which is quite sad).

    But if it’s meant that I’ve been able to continue owning Blogtrepreneur and helping to increase the RSS count every week, then I don’t view that as such a bad situation.

    I have benefited really from one big thing – having such a talented writer as Steven on my team. Your articles rock buddy, and with your recent news, all the team at Blogtrepreneur are really going to miss you.

    So yeah, that’s my story. In terms of reading other multi-author blogs, I don’t mind it if the original owner keeps posting (as I mainly read a blog to stay connected and close to the main author’s personality), but I suppose I’m being a hypocrite, as I don’t even do that on my own blog anymore.

    Having a load of bloggers posting multiple times a day really dilutes things, and when they all start to cover the same topics, then I feel that that’s an immediate turn-off for me.

    Great discussion! :)

  7. James,
    Thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts. I think your opinions fall in line with the majority of blog readers. There is certainly a personal connection that can be built or ignored depending on the approach of the blog and the blogger. Your list of benefits and drawbacks is very interesting, and I think I’d agree with everything. Overall, I think the drawbacks to have 2 bloggers are pretty minor. With a decent approach they can be avoiding, and I think you guys have shown that.

    Adnan,
    Thanks for sharing your experience as well. I’m glad that you decided to hold on to Blogtrepreneur. I would imagine that at some point you’ll want to sell, but the site has always had (for as long as I’ve been reading) a nice touch to it that most others don’t. We’ve all seen a lot of blogs go downhill after being sold, so who knows what the future would be with a different owner.

    I agree with your opinion that too many writers on similar topics is a turn off. From my experience the only blogs that I pay attention to that fall into that category are news-related blogs that have to have a full team in order to stay on top of things. Even then, I typically just read headlines and rarely much more.

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