MuslimMatters has gone through various stages since its inception in 2007. We started as a group-blog and then grew unexpectedly fast. We then realized that we needed to improve the quality of our work so we sought the help of specialized editors to help us achieve just that (hats off to our copy and staff editors). By will of Allah, and then the efforts of our capable writers, MuslimMatters is on its way to 5 million hits in 2014 solidifying its status as a premier Islamic blog with a recognized brand within the Muslim blogospher, mashaAllah.
One very important question that needed an answer was, what is our next move? How can we increase from 5 million hits to 10 million hits in the near future? Since MuslimMatters prides itself in the quality of its content, and since – as they say – content is king, the following goals needed to be achieved: a) shift our site from a blog to a web-magazine style (more below about this point), b) increase the number of published articles per day from 1 to 2 articles, c) up the quality of our articles by growing our editorial team, d) introduce Columns and Columnists, and e) better segmentation of our newsletter based on our content.
Blog vs. Web-magazine:
Throughout the Internet, more blogs are looking like magazines (Gwaker and Gizmodo for example) and more magazine are looking like blogs (Wired and Newsweek for example). The difference between the both is subtle but important (at least for us). A magazine includes columns directed to specific subject matters, columnists with qualifications on the subject matters discussed, and relatively high editorial standards. A blog on the other hand is a lot more relaxed in nature, aren’t normally edited and, more importantly, lacks uniformity of direction.
Both sounded awesome and so we decided to be somewhere in the middle: a web-magazine.
What does that means for the future of MuslimMatters?
In a nutshell, we’re keeping the blog posts and bloggers on board, but we’re also adding a space for more professional columnists on the site. This idea led us to rethink our policies as well as the layout of the site.
Here are some Changes
(1) Multiple posts per day:
We’re moving from publishing one article a day to two articles. The logic behind the change is that more articles mean a wider variety of content, which will appeal to a wider audience. A wider audience means we will have a chance to influence them to be, insha’Allah, better people.
However, doubling the number of articles published will require seeking more quality writers. To do that, we’re paying closer attention to smaller blogs as well as our guest authors for recruitment. Our social media will be put in good use to seek more writers. We also hope that you, our beloved audience, will take notice and contact us to offer to write for MuslimMatters.
(2) More Content Does Not Mean Less Quality
The sheer amount of work carried out by our staff and copy editors in the background of every article is indeed great. Our editorial team consists of an Editor in Chief, a Content Manager, a Managing Editor, Staff Editors and Copy Editors. Any article that goes up on MuslimMatters is reviewed by at least 3 people to make sure that it meets the minimum standard set forth by our Editor in Chief. So since we aim to double the number of articles, we will need to increase our editorial team by a few more capable individuals. This is a work in progress so rest assured that our quality will not be affected insha’Allah.
(3) Introducing Columns and Columnists
As mentioned before, we are creating a space for specialists to share their expertise with our readers. This isn’t limited to Islamic topics only (e.g. Aqeedah and Fiqh), but in all areas that we believe our readers can benefit from. Our columnists are selected based on the following criteria: (a) their area of expertise (whether professionally or their educational background) and/or a track record of articles showing their expertise, (b) their ability to write, and (c) their commitment to a number of articles per year.
We’ve already signed contracts with a few individuals as our first batch of columnists and are effectively working on the second batch.
(4) Newsletter Segmentation Based on Content
A mailing list is important because it allows us to actively reach out to our readers with our content. In the past year we were able to create a decent list but there is a big room for improvement. So our next step is to empower our audience to pick and choose whichever content they want us to email them. We will do so by segmenting our email list based on our columns, columnists, and categories. And of course, our audience will have the option to opt-in, opt-out, or update their information with a few clicks.
The New Layout Of the Website
Going from a blog to a web-magazine required some changes to the layout of the site. We needed to organize and showcase the 3500+ posts that we’ve already published, and to identify specialists columnist from just the regular blog posts. We also needed a better “featured article” section. This led us to this new layout.
This layout features 5 articles and allows us to organize our content into five broad categories displayed on the main menu (Culture, Current Events, Islam, Life and Society).If you hover over a menu item a dropdown down menu will display the columns, featured article, and the last published six articles within that category. This empowers the reader to pick and choose one of at least 4 articles… which is awesome. Not just that, but each of these menu items has a dedicated page that showcases all the articles that fall within that category. Once you click on the menu item, it will take you to a page that will display the featured articles within the category as well as all its subcategories. For example, if you click on Culture, you will see a grid of the latest 5 articles under which you will see a dedicated block to Books, Fiction, Humor, Art, Photography and Media. The rest of the menu items have the same setup.
My favorite part is the “You Might Have Missed” section of each of the five categories. In this section, every time you refresh your screen you will be presented with 12 random articles belonging to selected category. So for example, if you go the Islam page and scroll down, you will see 12 articles pertaining to Islamic subject matter (Aqeedah, Fiqh etc). If you refresh you screen and scroll down, you will see another 12 articles also pertaining to Islamic subject matter. This is a great way to showcase our old content.
That’s all I have for now so please share your feedback and please share it with your friends and family.
Jazakum Allahu Khayran