Being in the content creation business, we get to see all forms of content — the good, the bad, and the UGLY. No matter how much I want to believe marketing content creation is a science, there are still subjective components. And sometimes those subjective/human elements can consume all hope for producing good content. When content meets a revision cycle black hole, it becomes what we call Frankenstein content, and Frankenstein content benefits no one.
Frankenstein content is content where the editors are trying to appease all reviewers at the same time by addressing all their comments and revisions, even when they potentially conflict. The resulting piece of content, once these cycles finally end, is something that everyone is OK with, but no one is happy with. Frankenstein content takes a long time to get published, and risks not being published at all.
The impact of Frankenstein
The thing with content revisions is that nine times out of 10, when you ask someone to review a piece of content, they will leave three-plus inputs. The upper limit varies widely, but it can very easily be many many times more for some edit-happy reviewers, especially when reviewers have not been given direction on what to look for. Some reviewers focus just on meaning, which usually results in a few concise general comments, while others dwell on one word at a time and comment just as often. So simple math will show that for every reviewer of a document, you get multiples of comments.
What happens then when an editor dives in to reconcile the feedback? They have to make judgment calls about what should be considered, and what should not. But at the same time, they have to play a political balancing act, because some reviewers will take personal offense to their comments not being addressed. This loop can happen multiple times depending on how the newly edited version is received. You can envision the train wreck that this can become. With each iteration, the piece of content is less and less attractive, even to the original author — and even if by public standards, the content is already really good.
As with everything, the people problem is the hardest to solve. But let’s make it clear why this trap should be avoided.
- You need to publish. As we covered in this post about the cost of original blog content, content not published provides zero value. Even mediocre content will provide more value to the company when published than when in a revision trap.
- Revisions cost money. Each reviewer is spending time to review a post. The more time they spend, the more time they are getting paid to do something other than their primary job.
- Loss of authenticity. When it comes to practitioner blog content, the more editors, the more the voice of the author is impacted. When we edit practitioner blog posts, we make sure that the copy is in proper English, and readable. But we try to maintain the voice and character of the author. This is key, because if it’s too tailored, their peers who are consuming the content will raise the BS filter right away.
- The time spent on revisions does not boost the incremental value. The problem with the revision black hole is that minor aspects of the post become the sole attention of the reviewers. And any edits to those aspects will not change the overall value of the post once it’s published.
- You can’t get on to the next piece of content. When embracing these types of revision cycles, the content team can’t move on to the next set of content. And without getting the pipeline of content going, your blog will not hit the best practice publish rate of two posts a week — and a blog that does not publish at this frequency does not need to exist at all.
How to avoid it
- No more than three reviewers. Limit the number of reviews to three per piece of content. Not only does this reduce the overall feedback, it makes it easier if there needs to be a conversation about the content.
- Know your reviewers in advance. Don’t select reviewers after you have the content. Set a strategy and know who the reviewers are even before the content is created.
- Bring the reviewers into the curation process. If the reviewers do not understand what the topic matter is and why it was chosen, then they could be reviewing content with a different frame of mind. Titles do not always fully indicate the concepts that are supposed to be covered.
- Focus on meaning, not language. Language is important, and so is SEO, but this should be the job of the editorial team — not the reviewers providing valuable insight from their background. The reviewers need to trust the editors to understand what makes content readable, proper english, and searchable.
An identical piece of content reviewed by companies who follow the above rules versus those who do not can easily be the difference between a piece of content that gets published and provides value to the vendor blog, and a Frankenstein piece. When it comes to technical content reviewed by technical reviewers, it can feel against the grain not to dive deep and find that one misplaced comma or vague phrase and raise a stink about it. But it will save everyone time and benefit the overall content marketing strategy if the organization focuses on getting content published, and backing themselves with a high-quality, experienced editorial team.