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Going Digital: How to Prepare an Editorial Calendar for Web Content Updates

Written by Leigh Fowler on March 05, 2013

Calendar

Believe it or not, the easiest place to start developing an editorial calendar for web is with your print magazine! It may be slightly ironic, but the whole point of having digital content for a magazine website is most often to support the success of the print magazine.

Team Goals

Preparing an editorial calendar involves not just the editorial team, but input from other teams like art, production, sales, circulation, subscription and e-commerce.

As a web editor, it’s important to be aware of these teams and their goals. The content plan needs to work for everyone while simultaneously meeting your readers' needs and expectations of the brand.

Website Content Goals

Before building an editorial calendar for web content, you need to define your website content goals. What do you want your web content to do? For most magazines, web content will help build brand awareness, increase subscriptions and support advertising & sales efforts. The added bonus is that analytics and feedback from your web content can be also be a great editorial tool for future planning and content ideas.

Content Strategy

Your online readers are usually different than your print readers – what do they want? A web content strategy will consider the medium and take advantage of digital trends and tools to produce quality content on a regular basis that will appeal to your online readers.

There are many elements behind a content strategy – we’ve even posted an entire article about it here: 5 Content Strategies That Work.

Production

Web editorial calendars are tricky because they are dependent on all the materials being ready – not just the writing! Video production, art, coding, functionality, design – these elements all come together after the writing – so it’s important to pad your deadlines for every stage.

Thankfully, the automation of a content management system really saves the day – providing you with the ability to schedule everything once and have it leak out through your digital cycle.

Planning

Once you know what the company expectations are for the website and you have a strategy to achieve these goals, it’s time to prepare the editorial calendar for web. There are three more things to consider when preparing your calendar: Content Type, Themes and Frequency.

Content Type

There are five types of basic content types for most magazine editorial schedules: newsletter, articles, slideshows, video and social. Most content will fit into one of these categories.

Themes

Dividing your content into themes will help with strategy but also allow you to quickly see which items are lagging behind or off-schedule. I recommend these six content themes for the basic calendar:

  • Featured: Depending on the day or week, you will want to feature new content and keep your site looking fresh and current.
  • Company or issue-related: This includes bonus content from the print issue, cover graphics, newsletters, e-commerce updates required for the latest issue and other in-house marketing campaign material.
  • Sponsored: This is a great communication tool to unite the editorial and sales teams so that nothing gets missed. By putting it on the calendar, it won’t get forgotten or overlooked.
  • Contest-Related: Contests refresh on a regular basis – so all the related forms, rules, graphics and call-to-actions must be updated to reflect this.
  • Seasonal: Look at the annual calendar and plan ahead for some of your content to tie in with seasonal or social events like holidays, sports events, award nights, special awareness days and other related events that your readers would be interested in.
  • Evergreens: Once your readers come to your site, what other articles will keep them there? Consider timeless pieces no matter what time of year it is.

Frequency

Now that you know the type of content and its theme, it will be easier to determine how often it comes out, what day of the week, what time of day and what type of cycle will it be on.

Final Thoughts

Planning is half the battle so even having a back-up plan for unplanned content online is a plus. Sometimes unscheduled announcements or news-related items have to go up right away. Other times a story gets pulled. Is your content plan set up to handle these kinds of updates or potential content swaps? If you have template materials set-up beforehand that will act as part of a go-to ‘in case of emergency’ action plan, your calendar will be ready to handle anything!


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