Last month was the anniversary of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses becoming a team blog, or when I at least put out the call for more writers. When I started the site back in December 2010 this was the one of the long term things I wanted to do since A)we would have a variety of coverage on certain topics and B)provide new voices for the site. However, I didn’t realize what I ended up getting into, and it really dawned on me as our writers grew at the end of December 2011 how much work is required to maintain a blog with different writers. I had thought about writing a post about what it’s like to run a team blog, but school and me still attempting to actually write put that on the backburner. However, I was messaged on Twitter about team blogging a few months ago. After giving a few of my thoughts, I told this person that I might type about it and suggested to ask other head bloggers for advice. But then as I started thinking about writing it I thought, “But I’m not the only one who runs a team blog.” And you look around for advice on team blogging, there’s nothing completely concrete on it. So, including myself and bloggers of various and established team blogs in the ‘sphere, we’re going to help those on the fence by telling you what happens in a team blog.
Now, it’s not like there isn’t any advice on team blogging: Kabitzin worked on two posts involving Motivation and Workload for Episodic posts (along with his team), and Tsurugiarashix talked about Team vs Solitary Blogging some time ago, and all three are great reads. But what really goes on within a team blog? What decisions do you have to make in regards to one? Why even start a team blog? This is something that bloggers may not think about when they do start one, and that leads to inconsistent posting, no real voice, and a faster way of burning out.
So what is the point of this post? Merely, to give that one person thinking about starting a team blog to make sure they really think about it; to see how other bloggers who have maintained their blogs for a good while on what they believe team blogging is like; and to hear what you guys think about team blogging in general. As you will see from everyone else’s answers, team blogging means something different to each of them, and their ways has worked for them. But just because it has worked for them doesn’t mean it has to work for you. We can’t force you to run your blog a certain way if you start a team blog. And this is not to scare the crap out of you. But what we can do is provide you with more food for thought.
So, why did I decide to start a Team Blog? Because not only does it provide more variety of posts, not only does it allow for a voice aside from myself to start talking about various subjects involving Japanese Pop Culture, but I felt it would be helpful to me as a writer. To have other writers join me and see if I can learn a thing or two from them and see if my writing needs working on, that’s one thing that had appealed to me, along with everything else.
Of course, little did I realize that maintaining a Team Blog was not easy. I did think at one time, “Oh hey, I got a good portion of writers to write, I can coast and be a bit lazy,” Yeah, I was fooling myself. Sometimes, not everyone writes unless told to do so. Sometimes, real life takes over, and that cuts down on everyone’s post time. And sometimes, you also have real life worries. In addition to worrying about getting posts on time, I worry about the person in RL, are they safe, are they ok? One case, one of the writers ended up getting into a car accident. Nothing happened to them, but that’s just one thing that I really never thought about in starting a team blog. When you’re the head of a team blog, you also want to know how your writers are doing. No, I don’t worry about them obsessively, but when I don’t get a post on time or I don’t hear back as to what’s going on, I forget about “when is x writer going to give me my X article,” though that of course is one thing I worried about during the team blog run, which is why we have a schedule of what posts appear during the week listed in the about us page. That actually has helped me in scheduling and editing posts.
So, what should one should consider if you’re on the fence about starting a Team Blog? Responsibility. Do you want to be responsible for making sure that your writers understand your guidelines, you fix their typos and errors, they get you posts on time, and that you worry about them in real life? If you are able to accept that, then team blogging provides a number of options that allow writers to be creative and come up with new things. Overall, it’s fun to work within a team, to provide an experience that you can’t work on alone. The questions I asked and answered are the same ones I emailed to: Michael Huang of Anime Diet, TWWK of Beneath The Tangles, Kabitzin of Sea Slugs! Anime Blog, Evan Minto of Ani-Gamers, zzeroparticle of Anime Instrumentality, and Nick Kwan of Moarpowah!. Here’s their answers.
Blog Role: Senior Editor, Co-founder
Blog Created in: December 19, 2006
Why Team Blogging: This was always a project that was about doing things together with friends. It started with me and Ray, and grew from there.
What You Realized In Trying to Maintain A Team Blog: Maintaining relationships among the staff and getting people to do things is not always easy. A good team will fill in for you when you can’t. You can accomplish so much more as a team, too. Team blogs really do need a vision to keep going in the long run. Standards and rules are important, too.
What One Should Consider Before Starting A Team Blog: Make sure you vet your co-writers thoroughly and not only ensure that they put in effort and are talented, but that they fit your site’s culture. Find a team with a good mix of specialities and talents. It also helps to meet and know them in person; this has been our secret to longevity.
Blog Role: Editor/Blogger
Blog Created in: Summer 2010
Why Team Blogging: I really wanted to add writers who could add a different voice to the blog; I felt I was too representative of evangelical anibloggers, and I think that with the new bloggers, we’ve diversified opinions some. I also wanted to depend on others to take the load off of me in case I ever slowed down in blogging. I’ve been fortunate that in times when I’ve lagged a bit, the other writers have more than filled in.
What You Realized In Trying to Maintain A Team Blog: The most important part of working with a team, perhaps, is in the very first step – selecting the right members. I worried that I might need to be tough on my writers or even that I’d have to let one or two go, but neither of those things has ever been the case. I accepted my co-bloggers thinking that each was a man or woman of character; I’ve found that my determinations were absolutely correct. And so, blogging with a team has actually made blogging easier for me, and certainly made Beneath the Tangles a much better site than it once was.
What One Should Consider Before Starting A Team Blog: I think it’s important to consider the purpose of your blog – what are you trying to do? Will team members help accomplish your goal, and what kind of bloggers will you need for that to happen? Secondly, what do you expect of your team members? Are there expectations in terms of number of posts, types of posts, tone of posts, communication, etc. Be sure to communicate that information right from the beginning. And finally, note that it’s difficult to be a leader – you get all the burdens and blame. So consider hiring people who won’t give you a hard time (unless you feel a “difficult person” is worth the chance) and understand that leading with compassion and encouragement, I think, is best.
Blog Role: Blog writer, creator, site administrator
Blog Created in: January 2004
Why Team Blogging: We started as a team blog, but the other writers (whom I knew IRL) eventually got too busy to continue contributing. I made a go at it solo, but it was hard to keep the blog up at a pace I was satisfied with. And so, with a lot of trepidation, I enlisted more writers in 2009. I think a team blog can cover a great number of diverse series while maintaining a fairly cohesive identity. I also have found that the banter between team members in comments and team posts gives the blog a pleasant feeling of community.
What You Realized In Trying to Maintain A Team Blog: I was surprised at how much time goes into planning and keeping the blog running. All too often I see bloggers try to make their solo blog into a team blog in the hopes of (for lack of a better phrase) slacking off more and letting the other writers do all the work. This never ever works out, because no good writer wants to jump onto a sinking ship.
What One Should Consider Before Starting A Team Blog: Setting up protocols and rules for things like picking series or formatting posts is not at all fun, but putting in the work from the start makes the whole blogging experience much nicer for the whole team. The better your rules are, the better your blog will scale with more writers. It also makes sense to put in a way for all writers to communicate with each other, whether it be through a forum, IRC channel, or other means. I know this sounds so boring, but it’s one of those work hard, play hard kind of things.
Blog Role: Editor-in-Chief of Ani-Gamers
Blog Created in: 2004 (as a non-blog fansite). 2008 (as the blog you see today)
Why Team Blogging: Quite simply, it makes the work easier for all involved, but from a more editorial standpoint, it provides a lot more variety. If readers don’t like my writing, they can still come back to read articles from one of our other contributors.
What You Realized in Trying to Maintain a Team Blog: Standardization is a bitch. When you run your own blog, you’re the only person who creates content, so it’s easy to make things consistent. However, when you bring other people into the mix, you need to start worrying about correcting their typos, making sure you’re all using the same terminology, and keeping formatting consistent. Furthermore, you need to keep your editorial content standardized in more substantial ways. For example, your reviews need a common ratings system (or lack thereof) and articles of the same type should be roughly the same length. Without these things, readers will be confused and won’t know what to expect. This requires constant editorial guidance, which can end up offsetting the time you gain by delegating work to others. Unfortunately, most off-the-shelf blogging platforms, such as Blogger and WordPress, don’t provide a ton of functionality to help manage this sort of standardization, which is why I ended up building my own system to manage Ani-Gamers.
What One Should Consider Before Starting a Team Blog: This is really just a general tip for blogging, but “why?” Before you add another voice to the cacophony that is the Internet, ask yourself why your voice is so necessary. What will you bring your community that others have not yet provided? Something that goes hand-in-hand with this is a mission statement. You’re going to have multiple people writing for the same site, so make sure you’re all on the same page regarding what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to inform your readers about new things, educate them about old ones, or simply provide them a nice chuckle? Whatever it is you’re up to, figure it out and put it in words (and preferably put those words out there publicly for your readers to see). Finally, ask yourself if you are cut out for leading a group. Running a team blog is about motivating others, and you will have to be a strong guiding force for your blog. Without a leader who is truly passionate about their blog, their content, and their contributors, a team blog is just a loose confederation of people with similar interests.
Blog Role: Editor-in-Chief of Anime Instrumentality
Blog Created in: April 2008
Why Team Blogging: When asking this question there’s one thing to keep in mind: in my case, it’s not so much that I was aiming to start a team blog so much as it was a natural process as Anime Instrumentality continued to evolve and grow. Good work attracts good people to your cause. Some of them become rabid commenters, some become tireless advocates and share your blog on other forums and channels, and others take the next step of asking me whether they can contribute their writings. When asked, I rarely ever say “no” and have been pleased with the people who’ve decided to take up this task.
The biggest boost additional writers give is in their varied viewpoints, be it Jen’s love of good vocals and harmonizations, Aftershok’s affinity for jazz and rhythms, Yu’s particular tastes towards thematic analysis and musical subtlety, and maskerade’s willingness to explore beyond soundtracks proper. Having these diverse opinions and experiences helps to create a more vibrant atmosphere and community, giving you (and readers) access to a wider spectrum of ideas and allowing you to learn from others.
What You Realized In Trying to Maintain A Team Blog: The biggest task is to keep the writers motivated. Although the trappings of an organizational structure like scheduled meetings aren’t a requirement, you should talk to other staff members on a regular basis and involve them in the decision-making process so that they too have a stake in what happens. Always listen to what your staff members have to say. Finally, leading by example helps, both from the standpoint of getting your staff to respect your authority and giving them the incentive to help your cause and contribute to the site meaningfully.
What One Should Consider Before Starting A Team Blog: Have someone who believes in the blog’s mission so strongly that even if the unthinkable were to happen to the rest of the staff, that single person can rebuild things from scratch through sheer force of will. That level of obsessiveness is so crucial because it packs both the persistence to see things through to the end and the passion for writing articles that align with the blog’s focus. Without that passion, the site isn’t going to last and you’ll have a tough time motivating others to follow your lead.
Additional Thoughts: In my years on the blogosphere, I’ve seen an all-star cast of bloggers implode after only a few months. I’ve seen lesser writers join together to form a cohesive team and flourish with interesting content despite most of the writers still developing the technical aspects of their writing ability. Skill and talent only get you so far. It’s the team and the passion and persistence of its leader that determines whether the blog thrives or falls to the wayside.
Blog Role: Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Blog created in: March 2011
Why Team Blogging: I founded my website with a friend and my brother. I did most of the work, but I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to properly keep it updated by myself. Thus, I brought others aboard, and it’s been nothing but success since.
What You Realized In Trying to Maintain A Team Blog: You can’t be afraid to tell your writers “no.” If their feelings are hurt, so be it. You’re the boss, and you have to keep the ship sailing smoothly. It’s great if your staff comes up with ideas, but ultimately it’s your vision. Also, you have to know your staff, their personalities, and their tendencies. Communication is absolutely necessary as well. My staff knows they can always get in touch with me via text, Facebook, or Skype/Steam. Lastly, be prepared to do the majority of the work.
What One Should Consider Before Starting A Team Blog: You have to have a clear vision. If you don’t, how can you expect to lead? Also, you must be steadfast and confident. If people see you waver, they’ll question why they’re working for you. Make sure you pull your own weight and then some. You have to be willing to do moar work than the people who work under you. Finally, make sure you are organized. I can’t stress that last point enough.
Additional Thoughts: The greatest strength of a team blog is you’re not alone. You can lean on each other for support. However, one pitfall of a team blog is the disconnect readers can feel with having so many writers. You should attempt to do things to show your readers that you are indeed a team. This is good to remind even myself that we’re a team, not just a collection of writers doing their own thing. Podcasts, vlogs, and posts where there’s free flowing dialogue rather than scripted individual blurbs all mashed in one article are best.