How to Set up a Multi Author Blog

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Some say a collaborative blog (also known as a multi author blog) is like herding cats. I could agree with some aspects of that statement if I had experienced the cat herding.

When blogging it helps to link out to each other and share great content. So in my mind it makes sense to have a blog where everyone contributes a blog post and we all lift each other by regularly  posting really good stuff that people want to read an enjoy.

It’s one of those scenarios where working smarter is easier than working harder.

Diplomacy and its place in collaborative blogging

Diplomacy – It’s vital: When starting out with our business woman’s multi author blog – Birds on the Blog, we all committed to one blog a week each for the minimum of 12 weeks.

The rest of the rules we made up as we went along.  We quickly established that the minimum word count for a blog post was 300 words, that editing would be restricted to typos and grammar that was obvious (subject to cultural background), images would be added if one wasn’t supplied.

It was after the second blog posts of 3000 words, (yes that’s 3000 not 300 with a typo) that I decided that I needed a plugin that auto-capitalized after every full stop.  That same plugin must capitalise every single lowercase letter after that full stop. Not everyone types their blog post in Word prior to sending it.  I lost 4 hours of my life to that blog post; needless to say I am still looking for that plugin. It could be named the plugin to make Multi Author blogging easier.

We also added the rule that no post should be over 1200 words, it then becomes a two-parter rather than a single blog. Our journalism trained bloggers delight in breaking this rule. I bite my tongue here and occasionally remind them gently – 1200 words or less.

The blog that I needed the plugin to make Multi Author blogging easier is one of the most viewed  posts we have ever published. That blogger’s subsequent blog posts are also very popular, if I hadn’t handled the situation fairly I would have lost the traffic she generates and the interest in her articles. Those readers who need to know more about her topic then went on to find the articles about Facebook pages, about writing a novel, what women really think about business and how much the women in the past have fought for our rights. The readers find one article and stay to read articles from the rest of our bloggers.

Diplomacy is vital in keeping our blog alive. Grammar tends to wind a lot of the bloggers up. As we are from many diverse cultures and backgrounds I tend to be easy on it. I ease up on it when the blogger is writing in a language that isn’t their first language, I think it adds to the authenticity of what is being read. If I had to write in another language, I would hope people would be helpful to me. I’d want them to be sensitive to the fact that if they were overly critical I may lack the confidence to ever type another post. Gently does it is my mantra here.

I tend to do double back flips when one of the bloggers who are professional writers makes an error. It shows we are all human after all, and although perfection is nice, it’s something we all have to strive for. I correct the error and move on, silently, without murmuring a word to them.

Back to diplomatic dark arts – we have a cut off day.The cut off day came about by accident, all the blog posts have to be in by Wednesday and I schedule for the next week using the editorial calendar plugin. Without that plugin our whole blog would be a mess. It’s fair to say it would have imploded within 2 months without it. We post three times a day at 10am, 2pm and 7pm Monday to Friday and twice a day over weekends. When the blogs are in by the Wednesday deadline I can see visually who I need to chase up, who needs a hand and if I will need any guest posts for the gaps.

Some Wednesdays I am best avoided – I am head down in scheduling and chasing, sourcing images and adding tags and writing excerpts for the All in One SEO plugin.

Refusing to publish

I am fortunate that,I have met 26 out of the 28 regular bloggers.  So that means they are easier to understand, have a basic understanding how the blog is run and their part in it. Every single one of them understands that the diversity of our blog is what makes it attractive, is what makes a good read and what entices readers back, time after time. If something isn’t working in one of their blog posts, I pick up the phone and call them.

I have so far published 735 posts, and only declined one (if you don’t count the press releases that fill my inbox on a daily basis).

A prominent business woman wrote about how she had some financial difficulties and how she overcame them. The tone of the post was all wrong and it came over in such a bad way that I rang her up and explained how I felt about the article. I felt that the depth of financial disclosure from a past business would be damaging to her new business. I explained that it could also be me reading into it something that wasn’t there, so if she wanted to go ahead, I would just add it to the schedule and forget about it.  I felt quite strongly it wasn’t a good piece to publish and may reflect on her negatively. So she showed it to a few other people and they agreed with me, we didn’t publish the article. She may choose to publish it when she becomes a more skilled writer and  can adjust her tone according to the audience.

That to me is the most amazing thing about collaborative blogging – the bloggers grow. Their skills become better and it’s not just our collaborative blog that benefits from it, but their own blog as well. Some of the ones that started with us have now got their own blog and others have increased their own blogs to three or four rather than just one blog and us.

We are now in a position where the biggest loudspeaker we have is our collaborative blog, that our voices are heard better here than our own blogs.

Together we can achieve anything, including a happy, harmonious multi authored blog.

What do you think? would you give it a go?

Sarah Arrow
Sarah Arrow is the author of Advanced Blogging and an apprentice to the Blogmistress, for Wordpress help and Support. She has been known to mention... Read Full Bio
Sarah Arrow

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  • Linda Mattacks

    As one of the ‘cats’ referred to in the opening sentence of this post I have to go along with most of what Sarah says, though I don’t think I’d ever have thought of putting her and ‘diplomacy’ anywhere near each other (only joking, boss 🙂 ).

    I don’t think most people realise the sheer size and scope of what’s taken on with a multi author blog: The amount of management, nagging, checking, chasing, more nagging, finding new contributors, scheduling, more nagging…

    I’d say:
    1) Think seriously before trying this at home
    2) I take my hat off to Sarah

    • Sarah Arrow

      Thanks Linda…Err is it thanks? 😉

      We all work hard to make it a success and like you point out, it isn’t easy. I have had more diplomatic incidents than President Putin, President Obama and Gordon Brown combined 🙂

      • Linda Mattacks

        The intention is wholly supportive so I’ll change ‘nagging’ to chivvying… 😉

        735 posts on ‘Birds’ in under a year is indeed quite some achievement.

        As is the fact that most of those early contributors are still around and thoroughly enjoy the regular chance to spread their wings and write about things that they don’t feel have to directly relate to their business – I know I do.

        PS Do you think that collaborative blogging could be the latest in weapon in effective networking???

  • Mike Korner

    Thanks for sharing your lessons-learned Sarah. VERY interesting!

    • Sarah Arrow

      Thanks for the comment Mike, much appreciated. And you are most welcome to guest blog for me any time you want 🙂

  • Suzan St Maur

    Earlier today I was in a meeting and was asked to describe the content of “Birds On The Blog” to someone who is a comparative beginner in social media.

    I said it was a cross between a magazine and a newspaper – a diverse range of anything from highly topical issues to more magazine/feature posts that are reflective rather than newsworthy. The content is aimed at women primarily, but is far from a typical “woman’s magazine” … we don’t do much on fashion, beauty, haircare, shopping or orgasms unless it’s very topical and somehow connected to our business lives.

    A multi-author blog – and especially this one – is so much more than that odd cross, however. This one is a living, breathing news/features vehicle that makes older media like Newsweek, The Guardian, Vogue, and so many other two-dimensional publications look, well, old … sluggish, unresponsive and smug.

    Sarah Arrow hasn’t just pioneered a new online medium, despite having had to become an expert in cat-herding. Sarah has created the foundation for what I’m convinced will become the norm in the general news/feature media of the future. It’s what women and pretty much anyone else with a brain will come to regard as the only type of news/feature resource that’s compatible with how we are living in the 21st century.

    I’m very proud to be one of the founder bloggers on Birds On The Blog, and cannot praise Sarah’s efforts enough – as well as her generosity in sharing her methods and approaches with others.

    • Sarah Arrow

      Wow Suze, I am blushing! Expert cat herder! Lol 😀

      We are very dynamic in our Multi Author blogging and that is because we are people with more than one dimension. There is only so much diet and fashion you can read without thinking there MUST be something else out there. There is – US.

  • Anita

    Very good post Sarah – thank you for sharing your expertise and what you have learnt / are learning, as you continue to manage a fantastic multi author blog. I hope the success of your hard work, encourages others to take the leap 🙂

    • Sarah Arrow

      I hope so too Anita, thanks for your comment 🙂

  • grahunt

    Another cat here! I respect anyone wanting to try it out. On one of my blogs I have a couple of guest bloggers and getting them to write regularly is rather impossible.

  • Randy Addison

    I had seen other group of bloggers who grouped themselves according to their own niche. Some were big enough that it seems it gotten into their head that anyone trying to comment negatively on their article are banned immediately on all of their blogs.

    • Sarah Arrow

      Thanks for the comment Randy, I am not sure I would ban the negative comments but I can understand why people do.