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What Publication Editors Want From Guest Contributors in 2023

Consumers expect to be engaged and educated with steady streams of fresh content. In response to this need, publication editors are ensuring they serve up fresh content regularly. But just what are their collective content goals for this year? That’s what our exclusive report, The State of Contributed Content 2023, sought to answer.

For this survey, we focused our efforts on tapping into the mindsets of 46 online publication editors and culling data from more than 113,000 pieces of digitally published content. This allowed us to drill deeper into how marketers, creators, thought leaders, executives, and writers could make the most of their content marketing goals.

If you want to align your earned media efforts with what top editors say they’re looking for, you’ll find the following snapshot helpful.

1. Editors Are Becoming Pickier About Quality But Still Need Quantity

Despite the fact that an overwhelming 97.5% of editors said they’re going to publish the same or a greater amount of guest-contributed content in 2023 as they did last year, they’re not willing to publish just anything. In fact, 13% of editors revealed they weren’t likely to publish guest-contributed content at all, which is up from 0% in our 2021 report. This tells our team that editors are becoming increasingly selective when putting out content that meets their publications’ precise guidelines.

Don’t let these findings dissuade you, though. Instead, allow them to guide your decisions on what to pitch. Following publication guidelines exactly is a smart way to ensure your high-quality, unique, and forward-thinking material gets the nod. That’s important, given that 86.8% of editors expect to publish at least one piece of guest-contributed content weekly, 54.3% will publish up to four pieces, and 21.7% will release up to 10 pieces.

2. Publications Are Mixing Up Their Content

If you’ve been thinking about diversifying your thought leadership and earned media, you’re on trend with what publications are doing. When asked about the different forms of media they’re looking for today, editors showed some fairly strong preferences for diversification.

What does diversification look like? More than three-quarters of respondents said they plan to publish video content this year. Nearly three-quarters will publish podcasts, which dovetails with the rise in podcasting we’re seeing across the content marketing landscape. And infographics are holding their own at just over 37%.

Surprisingly, two relatively new contenders are edging their way into the diversification game: Twitter and Slack chats. Almost 12% of editors said they are looking to add this emerging type of content to their portfolio lineups.

What does this mean for you? You’re not locked into the same old pitches as before. As long as you’re contributing content that’s relevant, you don’t necessarily have to be strict about your information delivery method. If you have something to say, consider saying it in a different format than just the written word — as long as the publication’s specific guidelines allow for it.

3. TL;DR: Short Almost Always Gets The Job Done.

Part of The State of Contributed Content 2023 involved exploring content by the numbers. Specifically, we dug into the data to find out where the sweet spots are in terms of content length, headline length, and related statistics.

It turns out that being pithy pays off. The average headline length hovers around the 10-word mark. And a general winning article length is approximately 800 words, give or take a few sentences. Given consumers’ penchant for skimming, these takeaways aren’t particularly shocking.

The days of rambling on and on are out. After you write your first draft or create a video, go back in. Do a little editing. Cut out unnecessary thoughts or redundancies. Your content will have a crisper, tighter flow, and editors will be relieved that you’ve done some of the heavy lifting for them.

4. Using AI Isn’t Forbidden, But It’s Not A Replacement For Human Expertise

Gini Dietrich, the founder and CEO of Spin Sucks, made some insightful comments about the development of AI programs such as ChatGPT. Dietrich admits that AI can’t help but affect the digital media world.

While we’re not looking for AI to publish finished pieces, we certainly will use it for first drafts.

Gini Dietrich, the founder and CEO of Spin Sucks

Her admission shows a major shift from reluctance about AI to incorporating it. However, it also reveals that AI still can’t replace the human mind.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using an AI-driven program to get started on your next content piece. Editors won’t penalize you for conducting a keyword search or even using AI to construct outlines. But even the best AI isn’t going to be able to come up with content based on firsthand experiences or stories.

5. Now Is The Time To Start Guest Posting

Has your public relations strategy hit somewhat of a plateau? Now is precisely the time for you to add guest posting to your marketing mix or augment the guest-contributed content you’ve been offering. With editors still eager to publish, true experts around the globe are going to have more opportunities than ever to expand their reach.

Remember that writing doesn’t have to be in your wheelhouse for you to become a guest author. There are loads of resources to help you stand out as a thought leader in your industry. Availing yourself of this help will make certain that you’re able to start getting your foot in the proverbial door.

When your pieces begin to succeed with publications’ audiences, editors might start asking you for more pitches. Consequently, you’ll be able to get traction for your guest-contributed content work and achieve your digital marketing objectives.

The insights that we gained from The State of Contributed Content 2023 aren’t absolute because they’re based on self-reported responses from just a portion of the industry’s experts. But they’re still incredibly illuminating, particularly if you’re hoping to do more with your content marketing this year. By learning about what editors say they want, you’ll be better positioned to enjoy the competitive edge you want with your online marketing and public relations efforts.

Download the 2023 State of Contributed Content Report

Kelsey Raymond

Kelsey Raymond is the co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co., a full-service content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies strategize, create, publish, and distribute content that accomplishes their goals. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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