Are you a blog editor? Then you know all this (and much more). Thinking of being a blog editor? Then some of this might surprise you. Do you own a blog and employ someone to serve as its editor? Then, by all means, read on and see what that person is (or should be) doing for you. (You’re probably underpaying them, too.)
1 Time Needed Is More Than Anyone Thinks
As editor of The English Tea Store blog, I was expected to spend about 2 hours per month, according to owner Kevin Hickey, on all blog-related activities. Now, I got to meet Kevin and another senior member of his staff, and they were both pretty nice guys (but sadly terrible hosts – no one offered me a cuppa tea when I arrived). And both seemed pretty intelligent. So why this gross underestimation of the time needed to do a proper blog editing job? The main reason is that they seemed to have a very IMPROPER idea of what was involved.
Here’s what it really is:
- Reading article idea proposals and deciding if they are appropriate, then letting the writer know. (What was appropriate depended on what was already on the blog, whether it would get the blog owner sued, and several other factors, so I needed to be very familiar with the blog’s content as well as the current status of the tea industry.)
- Seeking out new writers (often involves reading a lot of stuff posted on their blog).
- Editing writers’ articles, correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar.
- Going back to the writers to clarify anything needed.
- Checking links in articles submitted to be sure they don’t go to something off topic or (in my case) to a competitor’s site, and adding in links where possible to the blog owner’s products.
- Finding and possibly editing the right photo for the article and (if it’s for a product) linking to the product shown in it. (See more below on dealing with photos.)
- Various other tasks as needed. One time I had to split an article into two parts, and another time I consolidated a 3-part article submitted back into one article and cut out a bunch of mumbo jumbo (what we editors call “padding the word count”).
- Monitoring all comments (the Askimet spam filter didn’t catch everything, and some of what it caught was not spam) and approving/replying to any that were legitimate.
- Tracking blog stats. (WordPress is great at supplying a lot of useful info, especially things like which links in the articles were getting clicked – and supplying a monthly report of these to the blog owner was standard procedure.)
- Submitting a list to the company for payment (also showed each article title, url, author, etc.).
- Oh, and writing my own articles for the blog (which an editor may or may not do).
You just never know what is going to come up. But it certainly takes more than 2 hours per month (one writer who submitted about 20 articles per month needed lots of editing). All I can think is that Kevin was poorly advised by someone on his staff. And when I attempted to set the record straight, I got a response implying that I must be padding things to try to get paid more. (Oh, did I mention that they paid me only for 2 hours of work? Couldn’t even afford a decent afternoon tea at my fave tearoom for that amount.)
2 Guest Bloggers Are a Touchy Lot
Blogging is great and has offered a way for many of you who want to flex your writing skills to do so easily. But it’s different being a guest blogger on someone else’s blog, especially when it’s a blog owned by a tea company. Writers had a hard time understanding why they couldn’t write about Adagio or Teavana or Teegschwendner, etc., on The English Tea Store blog. Seemed obvious to me that it would be like Coca Cola paying a blogger to write (in a positive way) about Pepsi.
Writers also had a hard time dealing with me rejecting an article idea that they thought was fabulous and new. Even when I pointed out the dozen or so similar articles already on the blog (something they should have researched before submitting the idea to me). Plus, they would be big into some aspect of tea, such as using it for weight loss, that I thought would put the blog owner into a vulnerable position legally speaking (several lawsuits had been filed, and Bigelow, who had teamed up with Dr. Oz to hype the miracle weight loss associated with oolong tea, was fighting against one in court).
In addition, you might be able to blog easily these days, but it doesn’t guarantee good writing skills. Yet, some writers hated me adding in commas, etc. Not sure I get that. Sigh!
3 Photo/Image Usage Is a Nightmare
Avoiding copyright issues and finding just the right image to go with the article text was a challenge. I tried as much as possible to use my own photos (which were under my copyright and not included in what I was paid for an article) or the blog owner’s store photos. And some writers would submit their own photos, especially for a review of the blog owner’s teas or a recipe. Otherwise, I had to find things that were pretty much in the public domain. But there were still times when an “Oops!” happened.
Once, I used a photo that had popped up in Yahoo! Images during a search, not noticing that it was from another tea company’s blog, a fact I was informed of rather publicly (thanks to a new staff member at The English Tea Store who posted the irate person’s comment before I could respond to it – as blog editor, I was the only one who was supposed to approve of comments) and I also fixed publicly and quickly (in a private message, I told her it was an honest mistake and that since she knew me, it would have been more courteous to tell me privately). If you aren’t careful, you won’t just get a scathing comment, but a letter from someone’s lawyer, or something even worse.
4 Blog Scraping Is Impossible to Prevent
When I took over The English Tea Store’s blog as editor, I found that several sites were scraping the content (copying and posting articles in their entirety, including photos, with no reference back to the original source). I alerted the head tech guy for the company and was told there was nothing he could do (translation: don’t bother me with such petty matters – an attitude I often got from them). So I put on a strong copyright statement that would be on the scraped article. Eventually, the scraping sites stopped. Now, though, after leaving the blog, I am seeing that copyright notice being used to justify my articles being reposted by the social media person at The English Tea Store, which is a pretty odd thing for a blog to do actually. But she tends not to have much knowledge of social media all round. (She claims that the copyright notice lets her do this. Maybe so, but decency and ethics does not.)
5 It Is All Sooooooo Worth It!!
I can’t speak for you, but my experience with The English Tea Store’s blog, despite the frustrations of dealing with the company, was well worth it. I got to know some great bloggers and helped a few others develop their blogging skills. The professional satisfaction was also immense and a ton of delight. The only down part was how the blog is being handled now, but I try not to look too much (every now and then someone will call something atrocious to my attention or ask me when I started writing for them again, based on an old article of mine they repost).
Knowledge is power. If you’re going to be a blog editor, know what is involved (as much as possible) before getting into it. And I hope it turns out fab for you!
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text