A Content Calendar to Build a Dream On

Elizabeth S. Bennett   June 24, 2011

In search of a content-tracking tool to love. (Image via smemon)

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be fantasizing about editorial calendars, I would have let out a good snort.

Yet, here I am, daydreaming about a digital handmaiden that would help me realize what have come to feel like flights of organizational fancy.

It really shouldn’t be so difficult to track content development and approvals and easily communicate progress with a team dispersed across the globe.  It’s been done a million times before, but I have yet to encounter a system that goes beyond adequate.

Some background: In the last few months, my team has helped to establish an editorial governance board with our client. The group’s members work across business groups and continents. The board meets regularly to coordinate content needs and sourcing and in the next few months we’re going to be creating a greater volume of content, necessitating a more robust tracking and management system.

Hence, my figurative fever dreams in which a single super-light tool is just beyond my grasp, a tool that would allow me to map out content requirements months in advance and assign the various components to different people – the video production to the communications group, let’s say, the accompanying text to a copywriter and the promotional image to a designer. Wouldn’t it be grand? And when the time comes, they could register their assets as complete within this wondrous piece of software, at which point the content would automatically move into the tracking flow where it could easily be pushed along to its next editor/approver.

In my calendaring reveries, I can easily view which content creators are at risk of a deadline slip because they can use the tool to log their impediments, triggering an email alert to relevant parties.

Versioning concerns would fly out the window as there would simply be a single instance for viewing and editing.

In this planning candy land, I can upload content to the tool and it would all be neatly associated with its sibling content. Just picture that video landing in the same place as its supporting copy). Yes, just picture it.

Alas, two additional constraints make my thorny case even more challenging:  Security is of prime concern, so a tool like Google Docs has been ruled out. And our groups don’t share a content management platform, which is why being able to post assets to the tool would be super extra special!

Colleagues in content strategy and publishing have been supportive but not particularly optimistic about my pursuit. Most accept the sufficient but limited functionality of the software they’re using. And if they ever did once yearn for better tools, their passion has long since been quashed by what appears to be the harsh realities of the editorial software market.

(Note:  Basecamp launched its calendaring tool as I was completing this post. At first blush, it could meet some of my needs when combined with the tool’s other functionality, but the content tracking and approvals remains a sticky wicket. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have dived into the new feature.)

In the meantime, I’m left to wonder if the content-tracking chimera I’ve been describing does or will one day exist. I haven’t yet seen it, but I’m putting this out to the content community with the hope that you, reader, can prove me wrong. If you use or know of a genius calendar/tracking/approvals tool, I implore you to comment on this post. Maybe together we can make the editorial planning world a better, cleaner and more secure place.


8 Responses

  1. Elizabeth…We’ve felt the same pain for years and have finally put together the resources to build a solution. It’s not ready yet, but we hope to get a beta launched in the next month or two. It will be called Content Manager Pro and should address everything you’ve mentioned in this post. Let me rephrase, it will “eventually” address everything. Phase one beta might not have all the workflow bells and whistles that we have on the docket, but we’ll get there.

    If you’d like updates on our progress, follow us on Twitter at @contentmgrpro. A closed beta test period will be the first step, so let me know if you want a beta test invite (or anyone else who might be reading this).

    Hopefully it will be everything you’ve dreamed of…;o)

  2. James Deer says:

    You should probably take a look at:



  3. Tosca says:

    I see we share the same dreams! Great point about Google docs and privacy. I don’t think that’s an automatic consideration, so thanks for the reminder. What do you think about Sharepoint? It doesn’t seem like a candyland, but it does have some things to recommend it. I will be checking out Basecamp as well. Thanks for the informative post!

  4. Katie Riddle says:

    What about Adobe Lifecycle? It’s not content specific, but it’s supposed to be great in terms of tracking/routing/workflow automation. I don’t know much about it except that we’re piloting it on one of our large business/creative programs, so it might be worth checking out.

  5. Amen, amen.

    The lack of great, off-the-shelf or web-based software for this need is a real issue, particularly when you start talking about multi-level, multi-location teams. Some orgs can use a common CMS, but you can get stymied by seat licenses there, too — often you have approvers or small contributors in the process. Is it worth having a seat license for them to have one small part in the process? Or if you’re open-source on your CMS, you STILL have to consider the ramp-up time for these occasional users. So I have not found many cases where the CMS can do the job.

    The calendar in Basecamp is going to help, for sure. My team uses Basecamp and the calendar is already improving our lives…wish they’d added it 5 years ago.

  6. We started this project a year ago and realized it was a bigger animal than our beta was biting off. I’ve seen a beta from another agency that is approaching it from the copy deck angle but it’s still a need. We are launching a content calculator in the next few weeks and if no one else takes on the content calendar – we’ll accept the challenge – with input from the community.


  7. Maelynn says:

    There are tools out there if you have the money. Woodwing, Quad’s Publishers Studio, Workgroups, Approval Manager, or Virtual Ticket by Meta Communications. The last three options are more affordable but typically out-of-the-box have something missing… that one component that would just make it perfect.

    My group creates about 100 different pieces of editorial-type content each month and we still use Excel in combination with a workflow management piece from our content management system tied to our web properties.

    I love a good editorial calendar. If you do find the magic solution, please let me know.

  8. idk what cms you use, but i use wordpress and a plugin called WordPress Editorial Calendar — i just installed it and it seems to be working well so far. it gives users a calendar interface in their wp dashboard to help with post scheduling and allows for multiple authors. good luck with your search!

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