Fuelling the constant content demand: Is there a better solution?

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I’ve failed to meet my personal standards for updating this blog for the last few months. In the “old days” the idea of missing a daily post would have been beyond the pale — to the point that, when I was travelling in Europe on a small cruise ship without Internet connectivity for a week, I generated the posts in advance and set them to publish by auto-timer in my absence.

The main reason for the slow-down is simply excessive load, and it is a trait I noticed once before, much earlier in my life. When I moved from travelling, then writing for a highly paid (but highly inefficient) civil service job to staring my own publishing business, I stopped keeping notes in a daily journal, for which I filled volumes over the years. The reason: The new business demanded so much time — and wilting — that something had to give, and writing for an audience of one (me) seemed reasonable to end.

When we were in the early stages of planning our daily construction trade newspaper — the words are deliberate because they correlate with specific Ontario Construction Act regulations — I figured we would have the budget to hire a full-time well paid staff editor, and qualified writer/editors said I should also budget for plenty of additional resources.

In fact, the original vision/business plan for Ontario Construction News called for us to go without revenue for a month and publish “dry” through June, with the start of our selling the specific legal ads that make the whole thing a business effective on July 2.

But I decided to move things up a bit — we would start May 1, and sell the ads from day one, as on reviewing the regulations, they would be perfectly legal.  I also decided to really observe bootstrapping business concepts; figuring every way possible to reduce capital and operating costs to the bare minimum.  Instead of hiring a staff editor from the outset, we would use a half-time freelancer, and I would roll up my sleeves and write like crazy, using my archives of previously written material to help fill the gaps.

It has worked, sort of. There’s nothing like filling eight tabloid pages every day to really burn through content. In this environment, news releases and (even self-motivated) contributed guest articles are often welcomed with open arms. I and my contracted freelancer grab every relevant news release we can, even to the absurd point that the writer breathlessly submits a story based on the same news releases I’ve already turned into filler content.

On the positive side, we reduced the capital drain to the point that the operating subsidy for the new business has been manageable. In fact, I’m happy to report that our market share and revenues have reached the break-even point, with an encouraging volume of new and repeat advertisers each week — indicating that I can adjust the business projections upwards.

But the hunger for content continues to get more severe and in two weeks I’ll be heading on vacation.

In week one, hopefully, I’ll get materials to generate content for the next few weeks — especially for this blog — when I attend the annual Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) convention in Washington, DC. (coupled with a few days with my wife to visit the Smithsonian and other cultural institutions in the US capital city.)

Then, after a few days back home, Vivian and I head to east-central Europe, and for nine days I’ll be cycling in Austria, Hungry, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The days will likely be hot and sweaty, but the tour company has set up hotels and transfers my bags each day so I’ll presumably have the opportunity to strip out of my cycling gear, relax, and catch up on business each evening.

Right now, I’m working to manage things so the daily duties beyond this blog are maintained on schedule. I’ve added two freelance writers and an extra part-time administrative contractor to manage the load, and we’ll begin the dry-run training for some parts of the work next week.

When I return, in late August, we may have the budget for a full-time editor and additional freelancers, but heck, I might hold on for a while longer, and allow the business to really generate some profits.

Then again, I may need to increase the writing budget even more. The content demand is, indeed, crazy.

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