Contently, a startup founded in 2011 that aims to help connect publishers and freelancers, today announced the opening of its platform to the public, providing a backend for online publishing endeavors. The company has spent much of the past year helping build tools that connect freelancer writers, brands and news organizations, providing ways for them to manage and track assignments and share duties. Now, the company is going to provide the platform it has been building to any publisher for free.
Contently co-founder Shane Snow spoke to BetaKit in an interview about the new platform, and why the startup decided to make it freely available to publishers, and especially companies who want to coordinate online publishing efforts.
“As a brand, publishing is not your core competency,” he said. “Knowing what to do with writers and what kind of editorial process to have to make assignments and to manage deadlines and to do revisions and approvals and all that is unfamiliar territory. And in general, having someone in-house with time on their hands to manage that is pretty rare.”
To help ease that burden for companies who want to ramp up online publishing but don’t necessarily want to hire on an editorial department to handle it, Contently streamlines the process, providing an editorial calendar, as well as to-dos related to the publishing process. Assignments are organized via the calendar, and can be flagged as pending approval, assigned to a writer, given a due date and also optional instructions, length, etc. The dashboard notifies editors or managers when assignments are ready for review, and the editor allows you to view and track changes. There’s also a built-in messaging system so that editors can communicate with writers directly through the platform.
Basically, what Contently provides is a more fit-for-purpose WordPress, complete with a lot of features that generally require add-ons and plug-ins when using that blog publishing platform. It’s much more geared toward a newsroom-type of feel from top to bottom. Snow does admit their are strong similarities between the kinds of things the two companies are trying to accomplish, but has nothing but praise to offer for WordPress’ approach.
“There’s a lot of reasons to point to them as a model,” Snow said. “The community knows that WordPress has the interests of the user in mind, and it’s cool the way they’ve opened up. We see a lot of that as the model of the kind of company we’re trying to build, by helping people at the same time as we’re building a business model.”
Which is why the Contently Platform will remain free, while Platform+, a premium version which includes direct hooks into Contently’s network of vetted freelance journalists, as well as payment processing and contract management, training and other features, will be offered on a subscription basis, with pricing variable depending on an organization’s needs.
For Contently, it’s a way to draw attention to its freelancer services, and also a new potential revenue stream based on actual customer requests and feedback. For publishers, it’s another stage along the way in terms of streamlining the process of getting original, high-quality content onto their sites without having to add too much editorial infrastructure. The biggest challenge might be drawing users away from other content management systems, but Snow and his team are hoping their more specific focus, paired with the built-in access to writer resources they provide, will be enough to build a strong following.