In this article you’re going to learn how we use Airtable to plan and publish our monthly content for this blog and our YouTube channel.
While there are tons of tools out there made specifically for planning, creating, and managing web content, we knew right away that Airtable would be more than flexible and powerful enough to handle this important piece of our business elegantly—just as it does for many of our other crucial business processes.
We need more tables!
To manage our content marketing process we use just two tables.
One is for articles and one is for video content. They are both almost identical with just a few minor differences that I’ll explain a bit later.
Outside of our Payroll table, which uses math formulas to calculate team salaries based on various parameters, these two content tables are arguably our most complex tables. The complexity in this case comes not from heavy math operations, but from the number of other tables and fields connected to these tables.
Here is a GIF that shows how our Articles table looks like in the “Q2” view (filtered to display articles that we’re working on only in Q2 of 2019):
And here is an iFrame embed of the same table in the “raw” (no filters) view:
You can see from the embed above (click in the lower right-hand corner to see a full page version) that we’ve got quite a few articles published already, quite a few planned, and several more that we’ve decided to reject for one reason or another.
The fields in this table are:
- Title/Topic (Single line text field) – The proposed title (before publication) or actual title (after publication) of our blog articles.
- Due (Date field) – The date by which the article draft has to be submitted to the editor.
- Status (Single select field) – Status for the article. Available statuses are “planned”, “in progress”, “published”, “rejected”, “draft”, “in revision”. These are pretty self-explanatory.
- Owner (Linked record from the Team table) – Author of the article.
- Description (Long text field) – A brief description of the article.
- Notes (Long text field) – Any relevant notes for the article, or notes for colleagues involved in the publication process. For instance, we leave notes for the article author here to make various edits to an article, expand on it, change the style, etc.
- Keywords (Single line text field) – Keywords used for SEO. Sidebar: we don’t really pay much attention to keywords anymore. We’ve found our best results come from creating content that solves real problems our customers have and documenting the solutions we come up with.
- Timesheet entries (Linked record from Timesheet table) – Linked records from the Timesheet table that indicate each instance when a team member logged time for working on a particular article.
- Video (Linked record from Content (Videos) table) – Most of our articles require an accompanying screencast video demonstrating the solution detailed in the written content. So this record links to the sister table in which we manage the video content editorial process.
- Post URL (URL field) – A link to Blog to the draft or live post on our website.
- Time spent on article (Rollup field) – This field calculates the sum of all of the timesheet entries logged in relation to a particular article so we can know at a glance how much time has been spent on it. Note that in order for this field to be accurate, ALL of the timesheet entries that correspond to a particular article have to be linked in the Timesheet entries field.
The rollup field is a bit more sophisticated than most of the other fields so let’s take a quick look at it.
Referencing the screenshot above you can see that we need to get the total time of logged timesheet entries for a particular article.
So we select the Timesheet Entries field (it is a linked record to the Timesheet table). Then in the second dropdown you will see a list of fields from the Timesheet table. Now we will need the ‘Total Time’ field because that’s the field which indicates the number of minutes worked during that session. And but not the least – we need an aggregation function that will apply to the array; in our case – the SUM function.
In other words, we’re instructing Airtable to do some elementary arithmetic and tell us how much time—and consequently, money—each article has cost the company to produce. This is a useful metric for us to be able to look at, especially we continue to grow and ramp up our content marketing efforts.
Airtable views galore!
Since the number of records in this table goes up every month as we create new content for our readers, using a raw view with no filtering applies is not particular convenient, especially in terms of our quarterly planning. So to make our life easier we use a few additional types of views.
The calendar view allows us to see the schedule for articles in a calendar format. Here’s a screenshot:
And here’s an iFrame embed of this same view, filtered to include only those articles due during Q2 of 2019. You click on the records in the embed below to open them and see what we’re working on! 🙂
If you prefer to graphically manage statuses there is a slick, Trello-style Kanban view available:
In this view, you can drag-n-drop cards between the columns changing its status correspondingly.
Form view for article and video submissions
While a skillful use of Airtable views helps you makes sense of the chaos you would find in a raw, unfiltered view, there is another inconvenience to consider. How do we allow team members to add their content submissions to Airtable in an intuitive, uncluttered way?
Meet the Form view!
Airtable allows you to create completely customizable Forms that you can then share with team members or publicly, which gather data and input the values into your Airtable base.
Unlike other products, which generally require you to build a form from scratch, Airtable forms are automatically generated from your existing table. You then have the option to rearrange, remove, and hide fields using the drag-n-drop technique.
To make a new form, go to the table in which you would like to collect data. Then, go to the view bar and select the new form view option.
This will bring up the form builder, which you can use to put together your perfect form before sharing it with others. You can give your form a title and description by clicking in the header section. The fields on your form are automatically populated based on all of the fields in your grid view. To change the order of the fields on your form, click on a field and drag the field using its drag handle.
To hide a field from the form, you can either click the hide button in the top right corner of the field you wish to hide, or drag and the drop the field on the left side of the screen. To add a field to the form, drag it from the left side back onto the form. If, after creating your form, you realize that you want to add a field to your form that doesn’t yet exist in your table, you can click the + Add a field to this table button in the Fields sidebar.
Additionally, you can customize your fields’ settings by clicking on a field, clicking the dropdown arrow next to the name of the field, and selecting the Customize field type option from the dropdown menu. This will bring up the same field customization menu that you see when you customize fields in grid view:
In addition to customizing which fields will appear on your form and their order, you can also adjust how a field will display to the end user.
Clicking on any of the fields in the form builder will bring up a number of display options. For all field types, you can change the field’s name as it will appear on the form and to add some help text. You can also check the “Required?” box to make a field required in order for a form to be successfully submitted. (If you make a checkbox field required, the box will have to be checked in order for the form to be submitted.)
Once you’re done building your form, you can click the share form button in the view bar. This will give you a link which you can copy and paste. Clicking the preview button will also bring you directly to the page with your form.
Data from completed and submitted forms will automatically show up as a new row in your base. You can also embed a form on a webpage.
Video content table
Our second table for the content marketing process is the Video content table.
It functions in virtually the same way as the table used for written content. Except instead of a post URL, we have a video URL (obviously). There are a few other differences of that nature but they’re minor.
The fields mimic the same ones from the Articles table with the slight exception that this table contains the Post field—a linked record to the Articles table.
Since we create a corresponding video for almost every article we write, it makes sense to indicate the relationship between a particular article and the video that goes along with it.
Since every linked record in one table automatically creates a linked record back to the origin table, we can add video information directly in the Articles table without ever actually setting foot in the Video table. You can just expand the linked record in the Article table and fill it in like a form, which all gets placed into the corresponding fields of the Video table:
While this was only a brief glimpse into our editorial calendar and content marketing process—which we’re always working to simplify and improve—I hope you can see how powerful Airtable is for this type of work.
Questions or comments? Leave your thoughts below!