How to create quality content on a small budget

12th July 2016
How do editors produce content on a budget without compromising on quality? BauerWorks Editorial Director Susan Skelly asks magazine and online editors for their insider tips on how they beat tight budgets.

On his darkest days, one of my art director buddies refers to “the great wheel of pain that is publishing”. More often than not, my friend – let’s call him Eeyore – has just had his creative wings clipped with “We don’t have the budget” scissors.

As the content marketing industry explodes, as posts win out against prose, as the written word goes to the lowest bidder, and revenue just doesn’t know what platform to party on, most content teams are having to manage on skinnier budgets.

Allocating budget to the key stories and galleries inevitably means filling in the gaps with thrifty initiative. OK, free content. We’ve always done it, but now more so than ever before. And what happens when something falls through at the eleventh hour?

Q&As can yield surprising treasures (as well as those banal tossed-off answers that you know involved twisting someone’s arm). When editing Qantas The Australian Way, overtures to various creatives to nominate favourite destinations or travel anecdotes sometimes produced responses that were good enough to run as features in their own right - an eloquent essay on India from William Dalrymple, insights into the design process from Paloma Picasso, amusing tales from Vikram Seth, and explorer Tim Jarvis’s most unforgettable adventures.

With time to spare on a flight to Australia for the Vivid festival recently, Ferrari’s senior vice president of design, Flavio Manzoni, took time to reflect on the “metalanguage” of auto design, extrapolating a Q&A into a flashy feature for Crown Resorts’ new Crystal magazine. In other words, you can get lucky.

We asked Bauer’s magazine and online editors to share some other ways they make ends meet, allowing them to leave the biggest slice of the budget pie for the hero pieces that best convey their “voice”.

…revenue just doesn’t know what platform to party on, most content teams are having to manage on skinnier budgets

Business

• Brainstorm compilation stories that yield links to great videos or pieces elsewhere onsite.

• Repurpose content into a customised quiz using an online tool like Qzzr.

• Keep an ear to the ground for smart business people willing to share tips, insights and images to get their name or business out there.

• Engage with talented publicists representing cashed up start-ups who might provide tips and insights and images to get their name/business out there.

• Connect with universities and think tanks and recap research findings.

• Re-run your greatest hits – with a fresh new design. In this world of information overload, recapping never goes astray.

• As brands develop their own news rooms, supplied imagery has become more sophisticated and is often looking for an outlet. Learn who has it and strike up a working relationship.

Lifestyle

• Seek expert advice from architects, interior designers and gardeners on trends, decorating and renovating, and plump up the quotes with good file photo examples.

• With good picture editing, an about-to-be-released book can yield a food, fashion or decorating story. A win for the content team and the books’ publicists.

• Soliciting favourite travel spots, restaurants, or shopping haunts from celebrities or industry experts can inspire good, seasonal features.

• Bloggers with great photos might also have a newsworthy story to tell. Come to an arrangement.

• Take a strong photographic story and repurpose it into a gallery or photo feature.

Art & Culture

• Look for good content providers who are happy to have edited versions of their work reproduced: trend forecasters, universities or think tanks.

• See where the great videos are and devise a story that allows you to point to them.

• Good images are the hardest free content component to source so establish a little black book of contacts who will share high quality images.

• Keep an eye on the work of designers, artists, and photographers looking for a break.

• New exhibitions are a rich source of visuals, and lend themselves to many clever angles.

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