A Guest Post by Kosmo from The Casual Observer.
I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Casual Observer, a site that has the goal of bringing an eclectic mix of fresh content to its readers every day. We currently have ten authors contributing on a regular basis, with a handful of others writing an occasional article. In a blogosphere dominated by niche-oriented, single author blogs, what makes The Casual Observer tick?
Why Multiple Authors?
When I started the site, I had no intention of involving multiple authors. While I always intended for the site to contain an eclectic mix of content, I originally anticipated that I would write all the content. The site took a slow turn toward being team written when a friend of mine mentioned that he was taking a trip to the 2009 Masters golf tournament. I liked the idea of allowing the readers to see what goes on at Augusta, so I asked him to write a guest article. I liked it so much that I asked him to come on board and write a weekly sports column. This was in spite of the fact that I am a sports fanatic. I liked what Johnny brought to the table in terms of writing talent, and his sports interests varied enough from mine to be complementary.
Over the course of the last year, I have approached other authors (or had them approach me) to write on various topics. This has allowed me to move closer to my goal of provide diversity of content similar to that of a newspaper or magazine rather than the niche content that most blogs contain. I knew from the start that this would be an uphill climb for readership, but my own varied interests made this more fun than a niche site.
Another reason for having multiple authors is the ability to produce more frequent content. From day one, I have wanted to publish a new article every day, allowing readers to find a new edition of The Casual Observer at their virtual front door, much as they found the printed newspaper at their physical door. With a full time job and two kids under the age of 3, this would be extremely difficult if I was the sole author.
How it Works
Very quickly, I laid out a document detailing the relationship between The Casual Observer and authors. The basics were that the authors were considered independent contractors rather than employees (an important distinction in US tax law), that they retained copyright to their works, and that they should refrain from content that could be construed as defamation of character.
At the same time, I created a profit sharing agreement. The gist of the profit sharing agreement is that after overhead costs (such as hosting) are deducted, advertising revenue would be shared proportionally, based on the number of articles an author wrote.
Am I putting the cart ahead of the horse by having a profit sharing agreement before there are actual profits? My thought process was that it was better to have an agreement in place up front than to try to hammer one out three years down the road. It’s much easier to get an agreement on how to split potential future income than actual current income.
Bumps in the Road
Has the path been smoothly paved and lined with fresh flowers? Not always. There are some problems that go along with multiple author blogs.
First and foremost, the other authors will miss deadlines. It is a foregone conclusion that life events will sometimes prevent an author from getting an article submitted. An author may even go on hiatus for a while when their life gets busier than usual. When this happens, I try to put myself in the author’s shoes. A non-paying writing gig is going to take a backseat at times. It’s important to be able to fill these content voids when necessary.
Much more disturbing is the potential for plagiarism. I was actually forced to sever the relationship with a former writer when I found evidence of plagiarism. I was reviewing the current submission when I had a sudden case of déjà vu. Where had I read this before? Ah,yes. CNN. Multiple paragraphs had simply been copied and pasted. A quick review of previous articles quickly found that they too had been copied from other sources. At that point, I realized that I was probably a bit naïve to have complete trust in the honestly of my writers. I now have a policy of randomly checking articles for originality – even when the author is a close friend. I hate doing this, but it’s necessary to protect myself from copyright infringement claims.
I have been very pleased with the way The Casual Observer has progressed. We currently have nearly 500 articles in our repository – ranging from sports to fiction to Middle East politics. While I don’t anticipate a surge in the number of authors, I remain on the lookout for writers who could provide fresh content that would further enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the site.