To offer a deeper insight into our entire online editorial process from start to finish, we have outlined each step in detail below. The following procedures are to be followed by the writing and online editorial staff for optimal content production.
Step 1: Ideation
Ideation actually begins in the Slack #online-editorial channel and in the Airways Magazine (Writers) Trello Board. These are where editors add and assign stories according to the day’s rota. It is also where writers pitch stories to editors for initial approval.
The ideation process is related to the content and the following is discussed in the Slack #online-editorial channel: the relevance of the story itself, its newsworthiness; the voice/tone/angle of the story; the seriousness of the sources, if its fact or conjecture, among other things.
Typically, this involves doing a bit of preliminary research to develop a pitch to be incluided in the available articles list in the Trello board. We must include the following:
- A working title — Our pitch titles are usually optimized for search engines with embedded target keywords, an appropriate character length for search results, and compelling descriptors. The more well-developed the title is, the easier it is for our audience to understand what a piece is about. It’s the difference between “5 Things to Do After an Accident” and “5 Crucial Actions You Need to Take After a Water Landing.” Which one would you want in your story?
- There should also be a word limit of six, and the title must describe in general terms what the story is about without being overly specific in such a way that discourages readers to click. For example: “Delta Buys 150 Airbus A320s for USD3 billion” can be replaced by: “Delta to Place Major Airbus A320 Order.” Also, the use of infinitives is encouraged when possible in the headlines.
- A brief description of the piece — While this would be included in the source article link that is shared or in the discussions about the news in the Editorial Group, it stands to reason that this is just a preview of the topic that includes an overview of salient details that will get covered as well as the internal logical structure of a piece. It should answer: So what? Why should our readers care? What can they do with this information?
- Potential source material — Source material and weblinks can range from previous stories from Airwaysmag.com (backlinks), or competing content that we are trying to outrank in search by providing original insights, original data, and more useful information to the audience. The source material comes up naturally in the initial research process and provides more context for the story.
A pitch can easily be tweaked before the much more time-consuming process of writing and editing is undertaken, and getting helpful, insightful feedback on it from the Editorial team can result in a much better final product.
Step 2: Pitching Stories
Editors and a few selected writers add stories from the day in the Trello Available Articles list as a cards with the pertinent source links. If the editors don’t like an idea — no problem; writers can develop or find a new one to run by them.
Editors sometimes assign a story to a particular writer by adding the member in the Trello card or else to any writer that is available at the time according to the daily rota.
If an editor or writer wants to change the direction of a piece — perfect! We’d prefer to hear that early on rather than rewrite something later. we can discuss this in the Spack channel.
If there are insights, sources, or other details that editors or writers can provide to add to an idea — awesome! We recognize that this is a team effort and that every writer has his or her knowledge of the aviation industry. just added to the Trello card and let everyone know in the Slack channel.
This review process is crucial for the content being written before it gets drafted to offer insights, save time, and effectively manage the workflow.
Step 3: Drafting
Once an idea is approved, writers or editor will move the Trello card from the Available Articles list to the Articles in Progress list. Then, they will open a new post in our WordPress (WP) editor. This helps everyone track all subsequent steps in the editorial process for the day’s stories, determine who is responsible for them, visualize titles, and more, all in Trello and in WP. I
n this step, writers must save their work as a draft, if not saved automatically by WP. Editors will not touch stories that are saved as drafts; writers are left alone to do their magic. It important to note that if a writer selects a story from Trello to write up, he or she must finish the draft for review in 45 min/ 1 hour max.
While most of us are familiar with the concept of drafting — taking ideas and organizing them into sentences, paragraphs, and essay form — we expect quite a bit more from our own writers. Here are a few key expectations that we have for our writing team:
- Find real facts as close to the original source as possible — Outstanding writing begins with a foundation of facts, not simply finding facts to support your ideas (or ignoring the facts altogether).
We expect our writers will not only find facts to support the claims within any given piece of content but also that they will find the source of those facts. News, facts, and many other things spread very quickly on the internet and even in the popular consciousness, which is why it’s crucial to ethically source your facts to reputable, credible sources — not some random page on the internet quoting something fifth-hand.
- Chase down the answers to questions — If you have a question about something while writing, there’s a good chance your readers will have a similar question. Rather than hedging, redirecting, or using vague qualifiers, writers should pursue nuanced answers to their questions (and provide them to readers as well). In the process, writers will likely come across new directions for a piece, new facts that inform their approach, or even new ideas for future content topics.
Another added benefit of really digging into research and drafting is that our writers accrue knowledge specific to their related practices in the aviation industry. When a new story is pitched, editors assign them to a content specialist who is already familiar with their focus areas.
- Ask questions — We have a very horizontal and collaborative culture at Airways, and we encourage everyone, especially writers, to ask clarifying questions whenever they come up. Sometimes, another writer or editor can answer a question. Other times, a manager can. All Airways staff members should make an effort to reach out if they know the answer to a question will have demonstrable value for a given story.
- Edit your own work at least once — Developing and improving the substance of content is the prime directive of writers during the drafting process, but research shows that writers themselves can catch more than half of their own errors by proofreading their own work. Including this step helps writers improve their own craft and saves editors time.
- Keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind — All of our writers are expected to follow our SEO Guidelines as they write. Our WordPress post writing tool includes space for the title (H1), the targeted keyword(s), categories selection, tags, and Google description (usually the Lead or first paragraph), and we also expect writers to create descriptive headings (such as H3s) with keyword variants. In addition, writers should follow our Image usage standards when selecting images for their stories. Finally, WP has the Yoast SEO tool on the right-hand side menu to help writers along the way whilst checking their work.
Obviously, there’s more to drafting than this — such as attending to reading levels, formatting a piece based on best practices for online reading, citing sources thoroughly, getting acquainted with our Editorial guidelines, etc. — but we hope these expectations for writers are clearly outlined in detail to improve quality at the drafting stage.
Once writers are done with their drafts, they must select the Pending Review box on the right-hand side menu in WP and save as is. Additionally, they must move the Trello card from the Articles in PRogress to the Pending Articles list. It is strictly prohibited for writers to click on the Publish button in WP at this time.
If by any chance this is done accidentally, WP will ask you to confirm Publishing, which you can cancel. This prevents any accidental publishing. Once the story is saved as Pending Review (right hand side menu), the writer must move the card from the Articles in Progress list to Pending Articles list in Trello, and that’s where editors come in. Writers should now exit the WP editor.
Step 4: Editing
We have a “two sets of eyes on everything” rule here at Airways so that no writer is ever forced to edit their own work before being published for the world at large to see.
Having a second person (especially one whose expertise is in editing) take a fresh look at any piece of content helps catch more errors and adds a layer of collaboration and accountability that pushes all of us to perform our best and focus on our primary objective: creating the best possible piece of written work for Airwaysmag.com demanding readers.
While many people consider editing to be one step, “editing” is actually a broad term for several different processes: revising, editing, and proofing. Below is an overview of those more nuanced steps:
Revising — While revising, the editor will review the piece primarily for structural considerations. Are sections and paragraphs in the best order? Is there any important information missing? Is there irrelevant information included? Are transitions present, and do they help reveal the internal logic of the piece? Are sources accurate, cited properly, and appropriate for the piece?
Editing — Next comes editing, which generally focuses on the sentence and word level. Are sentences grammatically correct? Are sentences clear? Are they too long? Are the best words being used? Are connected phrases and elements structured in parallel? Do subjects and verbs agree? Is the verb tense consistent?
Proofing — After revising and editing, proofing requires the editor to carefully review a piece for technical correctness and consistency. Punctuation, formatting, spelling, capitalization, and other minutiae are addressed during the proofing stage as per our Editorial guidelines.
In addition to the basic responsibilities of an editor above, we expect editors to approach pieces with skepticism. This takes many forms. If a claim doesn’t have robust factual support, we expect editors to find it and/or update that section. If a fact seems dubious, we expect editors to corroborate it. If a section appears to run afoul of specific Editorial guidelines, we expect editors to revise it.
Furthermore, we expect editors to workshop particularly tricky sections with the Editorial team. We do this in our Whatsapp Editorial Group chat. Our team of writers and editors are included in the group, and we frequently workshop sentences, headlines, summaries, and other short passages together to arrive at the best possible iteration in a final draft.
In summary, the principles of good news editing are accuracy, attribution, balance and fairness, brevity, clarity, readability, human interest, and sharp observation.
By the time a piece is thoroughly edited, it is ready for publishing (the editor or SM team will move the Trello card to the Completed Articles list).
Step 5: Publishing Content
At this point in the editorial process, a piece should be as close to perfect as any team can get it. Unfortunately, all of that effort to instill quality at every step can be undone if the content is not published properly online.
For example, if the content is missing crucial SEO elements or, even worse, is undiscoverable by search engines, it will have limited, if any, success. Similarly, if a piece is formatted incorrectly online, it may be difficult to read or fail to capture readers’ attention. Numerous issues can arise at the publication stage in the editorial process, which is why it is important to clearly outline what is expected.
The editors at Airways optimize every piece of content that gets published, format it according to best practices, include a relevant attention-grabbing image with the help of our amazing Aviation photography staff, and much more. All at Airways are also free to reach out to the editorial staff if they notice something amiss in the copy, which provides one more layer of quality assurance.
At this stage, the editor in charge will publish the article and share the link in the Slack #onlie-editorial and #newartiles channels so the Social Media representatives can distribute the published story on different platforms. The editor will then move the Trello card to the Completed Articles of the day list.
At this point, SM team will take over, distributing the articles on SM and moving the Trello card to the Posted on SM list where it will be later archived at the end of the day.
Step 6: Distributing Published Content
Once a high-quality piece of content is complete and live, it will start paying dividends naturally in many ways. For example, it will:
- Organically draw in new visitors to Airwaysmag.com
- Improve the number of keywords Airwaysmag.com ranks for
- Improve Airwaysmag.com rankings in search
- Cross-promote other articles on Airwaysmag.com
- Funnel qualified site traffic to important conversion pages on Airwaysmag.com
- Increase conversions both online and print
- Maintain the reputation of Airways as a leading source of commercial aviation news
To amplify these effects, our content is distributed in many ways:
- We promote our stories via a weekly email newsletter
- Our Social Media team posts our content on various Social Media outlets
- Our Youtube team creates informative videos based on published articles and original shows such as weekly news recaps, and more
The editors hope that by explaining in detail our editorial workflow, writers and editors can follow its procedures systematically and with the utmost attention to ensure Airways continues to be the premier source of commercial aviation news for our global audience.
Version 1.2. Helwing Villamizar, 2020