Creating a Multi-Author Publishing Calendar in Airtable
If you want to publish new content consistently, you have to plan for it. A publishing calendar will help hold you and your writers accountable for delivering content consistently.
Once you’re publishing more than once or twice per week and have a few contributors, you will need some way to keep track of all the content you are planning, writing, editing, and promoting. While you could start with a spreadsheet or Trello board, I’ve found the flexibility and power of Airtable to be ideal for creating a scalable publishing calendar.
What is Airtable?
Airtable is a free content management platform that gives you the power of a database with the ease of use of a spreadsheet. In addition to integrations with third-party tools like Zapier, Airtable has apps, automations, and blocks that make the platform even more powerful.
In this post, I’ll show you the elements of our publishing calendar and give you access to a template of the publishing calendar we use at Draft.dev to manage hundreds of pieces of content and dozens of writers simultaneously.
What is a Publishing Calendar?
A “publishing calendar” or “content tracker” is the backbone of a robust content management process. It lays out all the articles your team is working on along with their current status. Ours goes even further by allowing us to manage assignments, writer payments, and writer applications.
Here are the key pieces to our publishing calendar template:
1. Publishing Schedule
If you’re old-school and keep track of your content on a wall calendar at your office, you’ll probably just pencil in the names of each article on the date you plan to release them. I wouldn’t recommend this approach, but the primary goal of a publishing calendar is just that. We use the “Calendar View” in our “Assignments” table to see when articles will be published.
By color-coding each assignment, we can see which ones are on track and which ones might need extra attention to make sure they hit their due date. We can also drag assignments around to move their due dates or rearrange them based on extenuating circumstances.
2. Article Progress
Our “Kanban View” in the “Assignments” table helps you see exactly where each article is in the publishing process. We typically use the following stages for each piece of content:
- Preparing - Ideas and loose pitches that still need to be defined go here. We typically want to have a complete brief (see Part 1 above) before moving an assignment out of this column.
- Ready - At this stage, the assignment is defined, it has a due date, and we’re deciding who will write it.
- Writing - Once the writer is confirmed and starts working on the assignment, we move it to this column.
- Editing - After a writer submits their first draft, the article enters editing. Typically, this involves some sub-steps (technical review, copy editing, revisions, etc.), but by the end, we should have a complete piece of content that’s ready to publish.
- Scheduled - Very few clients publish content the moment we hand it over to them, so each assignment enters the Scheduled stage until it goes live.
- Published - We don’t promote content directly for our clients, but you should be. This column holds articles that have been published but not yet promoted.
- Promoted - At this point, the article is completely finished…until we decide to do a refresh.
Here’s what the whole “Kanban View” looks like:
Because Airtable keeps track of when articles move from one stage to another, we can look back and see where things are getting stuck in our process and how they change over time.
3. Writer Matching
Sometimes, having all the articles in a single view is overwhelming. Airtable lets you create new views to serve a specific purpose. In our case, we built a custom view that shows all the articles that currently need a writer.
Every week, we look through the articles here and reach out to any writers who might be a good fit for any of the available pieces. When we find a writer, we type their name into the “Writer” field to match them to the article and move the article to the “Writing” column.
4. Writer Payments
Another helpful view we’ve built helps us see which writers need to be paid. Every month when we run payroll, we use this view to see which writers have written articles and how much they are to be paid.
After each writer has been paid, we add the pay date to the last column so we have a paper trail of the payment. While you might not need this view, it gives you a sense of what’s possible with custom views in Airtable so you can create your own.
5. Available Writers
Our publishing calendar has a second table called “Writers” that stores profile information about each writer we work with.
The “Kanban View” shows you all our writers (these aren’t our real writers, don’t worry) broken down by their status (e.g.: “Applied,” “Accepted,” “Rejected,” “Inactive”). This allows us to review new writer applications, take inactive writers out of our pool, and see which articles each writer is assigned to.
Every week, we review writer applications using our hiring rubric for technical writers and move those who meet our criteria to the “Accepted” status column.
6. New Writer Applications
Finally, we use Airtable as an intake form for new writer applications. You can see a slightly simplified version of our writer application form in the template by going to the “Writer Application” view in the “Writers” table.
In addition to the Airtable template here, we use automations in Zapier to streamline our processes and remind our writers of important deadlines and tasks. These tools have allowed us to maintain our quality standards while onboarding more customers and writers.
If you’re struggling to keep up with all the content you have planned, or you need help building a robust publishing calendar, shoot me an email at [email protected]. If you’d like to talk about how we can create content for your blog, you can schedule a call with me here.
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