More thoughts on scheduling, what else?
Yeah I know it’s not as sexy as hide rating and banishment, but the fact is that we have so few discipline problems that most of them are resolved on a case by case basis and not easily categorized or particularly precedent setting.
And what makes a Group Blogging site like ours hum anyway is our content and promotion policy.
Now practically since the inception of DocuDharma two and a half years ago we’ve had some core features that we’ve built our daily schedule around. They are-
- 6:00 am Muse on the Morning by Robyn
- 7:30 am Docudharma Times by mishima
- 4:00 pm Afternoon Edition (earlier 4 @ 4 by Magnifico)
Now there are some things I’m leaving out for simplicity’s sake like buhdy’s Open Thread and Editorial at 1:00 and 2:00 pm respectively, and mishima’s 3:00 am Late Night Karaoke; and I’m also leaving out our weekly features for the moment like Robyn’s Friday Philosophy and Lady Libertine’s Off The Wall, but we’ll get back to those at the end, I promise.
We are a National Blog, not just in our political focus (as opposed to State Based or Regional) but also in our readership and scheduling, and I’ve always tried to be mindful of the fact that while it may be noon when I stop in at Luke’s for a cuppa, it’s only 9 am out in left coast land and buhdy’s barely had time to hit the beach.
I express times in Eastern not simply because it’s my natural prejudice (living in Stars Hollow as I do), but because that’s also our largest audience. The TV networks do things the way they do for a reason.
But since every thing actually happens simultaneously wherever you are, there are some times I consider to be ‘Prime’ for readership and attention based on their 3 hour coincidence from east to west.
- Noon. Lunch time in the East, why am I at work when I could be at the beach in the West.
- 3 pm. Why am I still at work in the East, lunch time in the West.
- 6 pm. Thank goodness work is done, time for something to eat in the East; why am I still at work in the West.
- 9 pm. TV is boring in the East; thank goodness work is done, time for something to eat in the West.
- midnight. Insomnia in the East, TV is boring in the West.
Beyond attention another consideration is mood and we’ll circle back to that too, but what I’d really like to focus on right now is my bitter struggle to the death with Magnifico which he won and I lost.
A brief history of the news
Back in the dim mists of the beginning time one of our first pieces of advice was from Jerome a Paris and it was to anchor our schedule with news pieces. Since Magnifico and I were both regular participants in Overnight News Digest this didn’t seem like much of a stretch.
I volunteered for the morning news (which I imaginatively named The Morning News) and Magnifico came up with this totally new concept- 4 @ 4.
The idea was that he would concentrate on what he thought were the 4 most important stories of the day and publish at 4.
I had two problems with this. My first one is that the more originality and editorial judgement you put into a piece the harder it is to write (which is why I’m a firm believer in on deadline crap), but the more significant one for our current purposes is that I lobbied really hard for ‘3 @ 3’ which I considered a prime time.
I think I already mentioned that I lost.
While I might take a certain kind of schadenfreude joy that my tag works and his doesn’t, what it really means is more work for me (because now I’ll have to fix it) which, to continue our condensed history of news at DocuDharma, was a problem of mine at the time.
I was extremely happy when mishima stepped up to take the morning news slot with Docudharma Times because my workload was killing me. Since I was already doing Tuesday Overnight News Digest I insisted he take Wednesday morning off and I would simply crosspost to cover. When I was no longer doing Tuesdays I switched to Wednesday Morning Science Supplements which continue to this day.
I’m going to specifically stop at this point and mention mishima’s reliability and work ethic which are just remarkable. Thank you so much, I’m entirely impressed.
Soon enough Magnifico got tired too of the seven day a week grind and I took over weekends with Weekend News Digest which was my usual compendium of crap because I couldn’t be bothered to pretend any insight or editorial judgement and I continued his practice of posting at 4 because like most readers I’m lazy and habitual.
So much so that when Magnifico retired entirely I’ve continued the 4 pm tradition he established just as mishima continued my tradition of 7:30 am I established back in the day when I expected much higher traffic than actually occurred.
The Status Quo
Currently, outside of our daily and weekly features, buhdy and I promote 4 essays each for a total of 8 a day. With the regular features you can normally count on 14 Front Page items a day (8 promotions, Robyn and mishima, buhdy x 2, me, and mishima again at 3).
And we’ve been maintaining that for two and a half years which is no small feat. At a quick guesstimate that’s 7300 of your contributions for one thing.
Our Front Page holds 20 items. This is a number you also see reflected in the number of Comments you see in your Comments Page, the number of Replies you see in your Replies Page, the number of Ratings you see in your Ratings page, the number of Essays on the Essays Page, etc.
They’re all based on the same setting.
Irrespective of all the other dependencies, at 14 new items a day our current setting of 20 allows the casual reader to view roughly the last 36 hours of content simply by scrolling without pushing any buttons.
I think this is a really important number.
You see, getting promoted is a mixed blessing. Sure you have prominence- for a time. Because buhdy or I or one of the other Admins like you, you’re more likely to make our Recommended List where you can last up to 3 days.
BUT, if we ignore you and the reader has their preferences set to show the 50 most recent Essays and Comments (like every sensible reader does) you’ll linger for a week or so.
It’s a tradeoff.
A Modest Proposal
We eat Irish babies. They are succulent and toothsome. They taste just like chicken. AND we will be reducing their surplus population.
Ok, I have a more modest proposal than that.
Recently there has been an uptick in member content and as I’ve said I think editorial judgements are hard and I’m essentially lazy and indolent.
Also we’ve had some new additions to our Editorial Board who are looking for Front Page positions for their pieces.
What I think is that if I moved Afternoon Edition to 6 pm we could be a little more flexible and generous with our promotions.
Our mornings through 2 pm (et) will look much the same, hourly promotions of ‘political’ content from members with 8 am available for urgencies I consider worth crushing mishima for.
buhdy at 1 and 2.
At 3 pm we can start promoting topical content and breaking news. I make my decisions about morning promotions between midnight and 8 am so it’s definitely a delayed kind of gratification, especially for Contributing Editors with an urgent and demanding Muse.
We need not fill the period between 2 pm and 6 pm with more than one piece. That’s what we do now.
We can however have up to 3 pieces (3, 4, and 5) in that time, including those by our Muse driven Editors who will hopefully follow the notification rules using our Admin site that I’m ignoring for the moment because I’m already too long.
This time period has the additional virtue of being prominent on both the East and West coasts.
At 6 pm I’ll continue with my usual typewriter exercise and after that, if events warrant, we can bang up more content at 7, 8, and 9. Again we do not need to fill more than one of those positions, which is what we are doing now.
Gee ek, why stop there?
Not radical enough for you? I told you I was a centrist.
The real reason is that I think mood is important (I told you we’d circle back).
After 9 pm attention fades and I think people are looking for community and amusement more than politics and news. In particular I’ve noticed a plethora of content from authors like Knucklehead, Eddie C, JekyllnHyde, and others (please don’t be disappointed if I’ve not specifically mentioned you). 10, 11, and midnight are good times for this.
Night Owl in particular has laid a claim on midnights, which brings us to our other contributors.
Some of you have brought to my attention that you want to contribute weekly content and I’ll use Lady Libertine and curmudgeon as examples without committing them.
Frankly, I’m not organized enough at the moment to make a detailed list of all those who explicitly or implicitly are doing this and I not only think it worthy of it’s own Essay but also this modest proposal may change your mind about what you think are desirable times and whether you CAN make a commitment, flirtatious muse or no.
My other radical suggestion is this-
I think the 36 hour rule is entirely important, not only from the standpoint of providing prominence but also because it gives the casual daily reader a reference point of previously viewed material, and so to reflect our expanded content I’m also proposing extending our Front Page from 20 to 25 items despite the objections of Admins without scroll wheel mice. In addition to the 36 hour rule this also has the beneficial effect of extending all the views that are dependent on this value.
I’ll be back at some point with directions for our new Editors about how to use the Admin site to notify people about upcoming content and promotions you’d like to see.
I may decide to abandon Weekend News Digest to TheMomCat, but there are considerations that mitigate against it.
Still I have just so much energy and this is long enough for now.
This week will continue as planned and unless serious objections are raised the new regime will start next Monday. On Thursday and Friday I’ll publish at 5 pm to accommodate Lady Libertine and Robyn.