Digital content production start-up Contently has launched the free version of its editorial management platform today.
Born in Manhattan in December 2010 to childhood friends and self-professed “internet dorks” Shane Snow and Joe Coleman with co-founder Dave Goldberg, Contently is an online matchmaker that connects experienced freelancers seeking a regular paycheck with publishers and companies seeking high-quality writing. It is also a digital Virgil that guides all parties through the editorial obstacle course, from pitch to publication and payment.
While access to the Contently Network of 3,500 hand-selected freelance journalists and bloggers remains a paid service (known as Platform Plus), Contently has opened up its cloud-based workflow organizer to anyone wishing to produce high-quality written content. This includes a colour-coded assignment calendar, a Facebook-like messaging system for writers and editors, and a Google docs-like text editor that allows people to collaborate on stories.
“Software like this wants to be free,” says Snow (pictured) on the phone from New York. “We developed it, so we may as well share it.”
“There are a lot of moving parts to the editorial process— we’re hoping to streamline it, put it in the cloud, make it simpler, and also give you the flexibility to organize your newsroom how you want to,” Show explains as he conducts a screen share demonstration of the platform.
“In a lot of cases, editors are using stacks of sticky notes to manage their schedules… The whole idea is that this system takes everything that you normally do as an editor through spreadsheets, Gmail, etc., and puts it in one place.”
In what appears to have been a pragmatic deviation from the original intent of the company (“matching every contributor to a large media news entity such as The New York Times,” according to their profile on start-up accelerator TechStars), Contently’s 100+ current clients include several “non-traditional” publishers such as companies like American Express and organizations like Unicef, as well as some traditional publishers like The Atlantic.
“Ten to fifteen percent of our customers are from the traditional media world,” specifies Snow, explaining that one of the reasons for opening up the platform was to expand the network to include more publishers. “We realize that media companies are under a lot of pressure, [and] we want to be able to help,” says Snow.
Contently does different things for different people at different price-points.
If you are a freelance journalist:
For journalists, Contently is free but exclusive. It wants to connect you with publications and companies with high editorial standards who are willing to pay you to write for them, but only if you have verifiable experience working for a real publication or blog. Only 8 percent of writers who sign up to the site make it past the screening process and into the Contently Network.
"The first step of the screening process is we send our robot out and determine whether [you] have written for a publication that is real,” says Snow. "If all of your clips are coming from demand media or associated content you get a note back that says in order to apply you have to show that you’ve written for publications, not content farms. Then we have a human editor to review the portfolio to find out whether the bylines are really [yours], whether [you] have written for publications that require journalistic rigour," he says, adding that the final step is for Contently's editors, who come from publications like BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal, to ask themselves: "Would this person add value to our network?"
"It's kind of a high bar," he admits. "As much as we’d like to help out all of those amateur writers, right now we’re being more selective."
Once you are in the network, along with a matchmaking system for freelance work and a comprehensive workflow organizer that helps you get published and paid on time (an added-value guarantee), Contently and its robots offer you an objective, data-driven assessment of your work's reach, influence and performance, which can help you hone your skills.
If you are a traditional or non-traditional publisher:
If you are a company or organization looking to produce quality journalism or content marketing (not factory-farmed, SEO-optimized drivel), the now-free editorial management platform will guide you through the many-ringed editorial proces. If you are a publication with your own team of writers, you can add them to your workflow regardless of whether or not they are approved by the Contently Network. The system helps with everything from scheduling to formatting, and if you ask it to, it will push your ready-to-publish prose straight to WordPress as a draft or live.
The platform's functionalities are better explained by this handy but reluctant-to-embed visual tutorial.
Finally, if you are a publication, company, organization or agency in search of experienced writers, a subscription to Platform Plus, which is priced based on volume, will gain you access to the exclusive Contently Network, allowing you to browse writers' portfolios and hire skilled storytellers.
"What I get most excited about is being able to help journalists find work that pays well from publishers who understand that you get what you pay for," says Snow.
Image Credit: Mashable