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I'm Marie Dodson, Editor at Torque Magazine, AMA!

Sep. 21, 2016

My name is Marie Dodson. I'm the editor at Torque Magazine, an online publication for and by the WordPress community. I work closely with a network of writers to publish excellent content for WordPress professionals -- from plugin and theme roundups, to dev tutorials, WordPress news, and beyond.

I love writing about WordPress and engaging with the community. Ask me anything!


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21 vote   Flag
Nemanja Aleksic

Hi Marie,

Thanks for being on our AMA!

Torque has built quite a reputation in the WordPress community, which is especially impressive given the fact that you're owned by WPEngine, but maintain a high degree of independence. Have you ever had to reject a WPEngine article pitch, in order to protect the Torque reputation?

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Marie Dodson

Hi Nemanja!

Thanks for the question!

We hold WP Engine stories to the same level of consideration for coverage as for any other WP company. We have a general criteria for what makes something newsworthy that dictates whether or not the story gets covered. If it doesn’t meet those standards, then we don’t write about it.

This has enabled us to keep our editorial independence while also being aware that WP Engine is in fact a big player in the ecosystem and as such warrants coverage when appropriate.

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Joe

How do you find balance between your techie and non-techie articles? Is it really formulaic or more, "It would be cool if we published this?"

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Marie Dodson

Thanks for the question, Joe!

Editorial planning is formulaic for us in that when planning the calendar we break our content down in the following categories spread throughout the week: Tutorials, Developers, Community, Plugin & Themes, and WordPress beginners.

From there, we work with our amazing contributors (who are a mix of developers, designers, enthusiasts and freelance writers) to select relevant topics that fall into the aforementioned buckets. This really helps us ensure that we are serving content to all of our readers — techies and non-techies alike.

All of that said, there are definitely times when we add the "it would be cool if we published this" stories to the calendar!

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Reyes Martínez

Hi Marie,

I had the opportunity to meet you at WCEU16, it was great! Thanks for your time doing this AMA :)

As a WordPress editor with lot of experience, what do you think is the biggest challenge that WordPress will face in the coming years?

--
Reyes from worona.org

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Marie Dodson

Reyes,

Thanks for the question. It was great to meet you as well!

I think that biggest hurdle WordPress faces is accessibility as the platform grows in popularity. The famous five-minute install is great but I think as more and more less technical users start switching to WordPress the on-boarding process needs to be even easier.

At WordCamp EU, MM identified Tumblr as WordPress' best competitor due to its easy publishing capabilities. I think WordPress will definitely need to find a way to make publishing even easier as we move forward.

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Milica Spasojević

Hey Marie,

Thanks for chatting to us on AMA.

I work as a designer, and I have been meaning to get more involved with website design and publishing. What do you look for in your designers? What are the most important characteristics, and how closely do you work with them?

Thanks!

Milica

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Marie Dodson

Milica,

Thanks for your comment. We are always looking for new writers. The most important characteristic we look for in our contributors is a passion for WordPress and experience/expertise on the topic you wish to discuss.

We work very closely with our writers to select topics and to help develop tone. Just shoot us an email at editor@torquemag.io, and I’d be happy to send along more info in regards to contributing!

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Andy McIlwain

Hi Marie!

Could you describe the steps in the editorial workflow that Torque follows, from initial pitch through final publish? (I've seen so many approaches, really curious about how the Torque team is handling it.)

And a follow-up on that: Are there any specific tools that you rely on? (E.g. Trello, Google sheets, something else...?)

Andy

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Marie Dodson

Andy, thanks for the question!

For initial inquiries, we send prospective contributors a copy of our guidelines, which outline the overall tone, length, and audience. Within the guidelines are details on how to form the pitch.

After the topic is agreed upon, we move forward in setting the draft deadline. The contributor submits the draft via a google doc. We make suggestions within the doc and then the writer approves the edits. After that, we add it to the editorial calendar (we use google docs for our calendar).

We then give the writer "contributor" access to the site (we use User Role Editor to manage user roles). After the content is uploaded, we take another editorial pass, add images (we use Shutterstock) and then schedule.

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Ahmad Awais

Hi, Marie!

— What does a normal work day in your life look like?
— Do you have other responsibilities at WPE except managing TM?

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Marie Dodson

Ahmad, thanks for the question!

A typical day for me kicks off by checking out what's new in WordPress. Since I'm on a different timezone than the rest of the Torque team, I have a few hours in the morning to write and edit content. At noon ET we have our editorial sync, where we review the plan for the day -- i.e., review news, content updates, Torque toons, newsletter planning, etc.. My afternoons are typically consumed with editing content, answering inquiries, pitching in on social and dealing with a number of different fires that can arise each day (you won't believe how many issues we've had with our syntax highlighter).

My other responsibility at WP Engine is to inform the greater company on the best practices in the publishing world (something that is obviously very near and dear to all WordPress users). Through Torque and by attending WordCamps and Meetups, I'm also able to keep everyone informed on the happenings in WordPress and the community.

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Ahmad Awais

Thanks for the answers!

>(you won't believe how many issues we've had with our syntax highlighter)

I do, I was personally affected by it once. I still stand by my suggestion of moving towards oEmbed GitHub Gists :)

It's good to know more about you :)

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r0bot

Hello. Thanks for AMA. Do you optimize your articles in terms of SEO? Do you collect keywords and analyze them before you approve a topic and put it in on your calendar? Thanks!

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Marie Dodson

We use Yoast SEO to optimize our content and Google Analytics to determine the content that best resonates with our readers so we can use that data to feed ideas for editorial planning!

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Omaar Osmaan

Hello Marie- nice to talk to you!

Do you love coffee, or tea? How many cup takes you to write down a super cool news?

It looks like that WordPress core community, and a lots of media who covers WordPress news treat Themes as a 'secondary thing', and plugins kind of 'VIP'. If so you think- what could be the reason? Is it that plugins empowers features that usually WordPress core doesn't provide so there are more audience/readers about it? WordPress themes are being saturated?

Interestingly, regarding core updates, theme related functions had not seen much improvement in last couple of major release, though 4.7 going to introduce a lots of updates related to themes (including a new one-page focus on the default theme).

Would love to know your views on theme related things as a publisher/editor that you might see more than the others.

Thank you!

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Marie Dodson

Omaar,

I am definitely a coffee lover, and it usually takes one large cup to get the creative juices flowing for me.

You’re right in that plugins are prioritized in terms of coverage. I think a large reason for this is because of the mere fact that there are more than 40k free plugins in there repository alone, compared to the 4k free themes. I also agree with your notion that the extended functionality of core resonates better with readers, at least on Torque.

I think that in the future there could be even less news on themes, when compared to plugins, simply because of the decoupling provided by the REST API. Since users can now create more dynamic front-ends with JavaScript, the core functionality, and the functionality provided by plugins becomes even more significant and themes become less.

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Omaar Osmaan

Marie,

I had to make some coffee to write the reply! Once I wrote a haiku about coffee- here it goes (can't resist to not to):

My morning coffee-
Brings the spirit and peace to
live another day.

Thanks so much for the confirmation- I got some impression around WP Community that theme are saturated but I doubt that isn't the reason for less coverage for theme authors.

Regarding the less theme on repository, the lengthy review process is a kind of blocker. To be honest, I find it very surprising that both the WordPress repository and Core has less attention to theme related tasks/functions- gladly though the theme review process are getting a total makeover (automated process with slightly different strategy for the reviews). After nearly two years of engagements in Slack channel, It's the last WPEU when I was able to get some attention from Matt about it, and then also seeing some attention for theme functionalities targeting 4.7 release.

I think that, while WordPress has awesome filters/actions and a good API/system for themes to be made upon- the core lacks innovation since a very long time. Hence plugins are more inclined to doing the presentations as much as they can, and theme authors attempt to include back-end features in a theme. Due to the tendency of Media, the more days goes by it's getting more prominent nature of WordPress echo system.

Just for example, core only recently added functions to add inline JavaScript for outputs- Customize streamlined ways to use JS templates between themes/plugins. However, still it lacks a lot regarding bring a balance for systems regarding presentation vs functionality. Although the progress has been being done slowly a little by little.

Regarding REST API, I think it would make the problem more prominent- may be then we would get proper attention about it, in a better way. I hope so- :)

Just sharing my thoughts. Thanks so much for the answers- have a great day!

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Mairaj Pirzada

Hey Marie!

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Here are the questions:

— What is your advice to bloggers writing about WordPress?
— How do you keep yourself up to date with WordPress news?

:)

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Marie Dodson

Mairaj,

Thanks for the questions.

My advice to bloggers writing about WordPress is to find your audience and write for them. Are you writing for WordPress developers, designers, beginners, business owners? I think it's easy to overlook the different content needs for each of these groups and to lump them all into one bucket.

Our contributors at Torque each have different areas of expertise, whether they are a developer or a freelance writer specializing in plugins or themes, or tutorials. It's easier to build your rapport as a WordPress blogger when you have defined your niche and can become an expert in what you're writing about.

I get most of my news from Twitter. I also find ManageWP to be extremely helpful as it makes it super easy to discover WP news.

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Matt Cromwell

Hi Marie!

I'm curious if there's a certain TYPE of article that you know will pretty much always generate more than average traffic. Some content marketers swear by the infamous "listicle", but in WP plugin reviews seem popular, or tutorials in general. Is there a certain type that pretty much always does better than average on Torque? And if so... why don't you just publish those ALL. THE. TIME? (follow-up is kind of a softball, but interested in your take)

Thanks!

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Marie Dodson

Matt, thanks for the question!

Our plugin lislticles are without a doubt our most popular articles. Following close behind are our in-depth tutorials on how to use specific WordPress plugins -- i.e., Yoast, Mailchimp, WooCommerce.

The reason we don't publish it all the time is because a great deal of the traffic generated from these articles comes through google organic and is not our core reader base. Since there is an obvious appetite for this type of content among WP users we still publish it, however, we are also mindful of the developers and other community folks who read the publication and want to serve their interests as well.

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Danish Ashrafi

How WordPress is treating you lately... :) what are some good resources that you can suggest to follow :) for how long have you been working with Torque? Hows your experience there :)

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