5 Features That Would Make Vocal Even Better
Proposals from a loyal creator.
I've been writing on Vocal for over a year now, and I can say with confidence this site is one of my f a v o r i t e s in the world. The layout is easy to navigate, there's many new talented creators to check out, no disruptive ads anywhere, and you receive compensation for your hard work through reads, tips, and challenge wins! It's so addictive, and has kept me busy throughout this crazy pandemic.
Okay, I'll just say it - I love you, Vocal.
But you know that saying about love? "Love has limits?" Like, you know how true love is about knowing someone's flaws and loving them despite the flaws? That's the kind of love I have for Vocal.
Here's the thing: Vocal isn't perfect. Vocal Media has changed - for better and worse - throughout the years. I was here before Vocal+ or weekly challenges were even a thing, and there are some features I'm surprised haven't been implemented into the website yet. Some are features I've heard about on other freelance writing sites. Others are thoughts I've had and think could work well in this specific community.
Vocal is different from many other writing platforms because of its user-friendliness. Creators keep creating because it's easy for new articles to be reviewed and published. This allows for a lot of creative freedom, and it's one of Vocal's greatest pros. But there are cons to this platform I believe can be fixed, or at least improved upon, with some small updates. I attended the Jerrick Media Shareholder Meeting this week hoping future updates would be discussed. However, the only "future plans" Vocal had to share related to brand deals, Vocal+ membership goals, and getting the company onto the NASDAQ. Which was cool, but not what us creators were looking for.
So until the day I have enough clout to pitch these ideas in another meeting, here's an in-site proposal of five new features that would make Vocal an even better place to spend time on.
Let's be honest: as a writer, it's hard as sh*t to make money on Vocal. Unless you're a wizard at winning challenges, securing tips, or have a large social media presence, it's impossible to reach a minimum payout through reads alone. I've been here for more than a year, I gave in and subscribed to Vocal+, I've placed 1st in three challenges, have almost 2000 views on one article AND some of my pieces became staff picks...yet I'm still very far away from reaching that $20 Stripe requirement.
Additionally, while Vocal makes it easy to discover new creators, it's difficult to stay updated when they post new content. There have been times where I've found a story I enjoy, check out the author's page, read through all of their other articles...and that's it. I forget their name in a day. If I somehow remember it and want to keep reading their work, I have to go to the search bar, type in their name, and manually check to see if they've posted anything new.
You know what would kill these two birds with one stone? A follower system. Yes, I know - seeing a visible follower count on a profile could trigger status anxiety, etc. But let me ask you this: what is the point of having Creator Spotlights when those articles eventually get lost in a sea of staff picks, and we've forgotten about the exceptional writers we were supposed to remember?
A follower count would help both creators and readers in numerous ways. For creators, a follower count would let them know just how many reliable people are clicking on their articles. It clues them in on how many views to expect from a new post, and gives them another thing to work towards and grow besides their writing ability. And it helps tremendously with income. For example: let's say I follow someone on Vocal and get an email notification whenever they post a new article. Now I am more inclined to read their work, thus securing the creator another read. And more reads = more money.
For readers, a follower count allows them to discover and track some of Vocal's top writers. It provides a sense of community and support towards the creator. We can follow our favorite writers on social media, but why not on Vocal itself? With followers, Vocal could become the Youtube of blogging sites. Us creators need more than challenge wins and getting our articles to staff pick status in order for our work to be seen and appreciated.
You ever have that annoying experience where you're trying to get an article in on time, only for it to be rejected because you weren't paying attention to your word count? I wrote a poem called Daisy Chains where I chose to embed the whole piece in images rather than type out the poem on Vocal. (For aesthetic purposes, duh!) The poem got rejected due to word count, so I had to include a clunky author's note at the bottom, totally ruining the vibe.
I'm not saying we should abolish the word count requirement. In fact, I think the rule is helpful in developing new writers' skills and gives Vocal legitimacy as a blogging site. If we could upload one or two-word posts, Vocal would be nothing more than social media.
What I am saying is that I wish I had been reminded about the word count so I could have picked a better way to format the poem. I wish I didn't have to copy and paste a whoooooole article onto Microsoft Word just so I can know how many words I wrote.
It would be so helpful if there was a tiny word count on the bottom of the screen to let us know how many more words we need to write until our piece can get accepted. I imagine it would save reviewers working for Jerrick Media (or should I say Creatd 😉) a lot more time.
A tiny word count would be especially helpful for challenge writers, because in order for a challenge submission to be eligible, it needs to be between 600 and 5,000 words. One time, I wrote a whole memoir for a challenge only to discover it was over 5,000 words after I copy and pasted it into Microsoft. I can't be the only one who's made this mistake. If there was a word count on Vocal, I would have known to keep my story brief, or to pick a new one entirely.
More specifically, editing after publication.
Hear me out on this one. I know the point of publication is to distribute a finished work into the public for enjoyment and discussion. However, people make mistakes. Vocal articles are reviewed to prevent hate speech, underwritten work, and other controversial things from entering the blogosphere. However, they are not reviewed for embarrassing spelling or grammar mistakes. And not to be a nitpicky critic, but I've seen a lot of articles on here with those kinds of mistakes. And not just one or two mistakes, but like...many mistakes.
Spelling and grammar mistakes happen to the best of us. So it would be a blessing to be able to edit articles after they are public so these mistakes can be fixed. Other writing sites like Wattpad and Hubpages allow users to do this.
However, I can see if Vocal admins would find this tedious, as edited pages would have to be reread and re-approved before the edits are made public.
Therefore, another proposal I'd like to offer is adding in corrections after publication. For example: I wrote an article last week about Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock playing his version of the Star Spangled Banner. I accidentally wrote he was the highest-paid musician of the 60's, when I meant to write he was the highest-paid musician at Woodstock. If I could, I would go back and fix this mistake.
Journalists are allowed to add in corrections for factual errors, updates, and other reasons as footnotes at the end of their publications. Therefore, I think Vocal creators should be allowed to do the same for any factual mistakes they make. This could be a good alternative to editing a whole article after it's published, as the Vocal team would only have to approve small footnotes and not look over everything again.
The stats page is incredibly helpful in informing creators on their view count for articles, their percentage of change in audience engagement, and how much money they've made from reads. It's clear and useful, yet I think it can go even further.
Last month, I had an article that, for some reason, had a rapid spike in viewership. This spike only lasted for a few days and, strangely, no one paid the article any likes or tips. It went from no views to almost 2,000 in a week.
I have no idea where these views came from. Did my article appear first in a Google search? Did a celebrity share it on social media? Did another blog re-post it to their site? WAS IT A BOT?! I have so many questions, but can't find answers.
In-depth analytics would be beneficial to creator growth. Knowing where views are coming from would aid so much in knowing how to promote your articles to the public.
Some other useful analytics would be...
- Audience retention rates on stories, shown in percentages.
- Data on "unique" viewers and viewers who already have Vocal accounts.
- Average viewers per article.
The more analytics creators have, the more they know how to grow on Vocal.
Okay, so this suggestion is more like wish fulfillment on my end than a thought-out proposal...but boy, wouldn't it be fun to write in different fonts and colors on Vocal? I'll answer that for you...
Microsoft Word allows users to change the style of text in their document, as well as its color, size, and highlight. Same thing with emailing sites. So it boggles my mind that many writing websites, including Vocal, don't allow this feature.
If Vocal offered new fonts and text colors, it would totally change the game. It would separate this site from competitors, and allow for more user creativity. Think about it...you could make six headings, each with a different color of the rainbow! You could write quotes in different fonts! You could make your poem look like it was written out of a typewriter! The possibilities are endless.
You may be wondering how I got the multi-colored headers on this particular article. They're cool, right? I've been using a site called fontmeme.com to create text images that can be embedded into Vocal articles. Try it out for your own stories. (You're welcome.)
However, there are three problems with fontmeme images: sometimes they are too big to be displayed clearly on a Vocal article, sometimes they're too pixelated, and of course, they don't affect word count. Different color and font options on Vocal itself would fix all of this.
So...there you have it. Those are my five proposals for now. If you agree with one or all of my suggestions, please drop this article a like. If you have an idea of your own I didn't mention in this article, DM me on Instagram, @katyisaladybug, and I'll include it in another article. If people are on board, I'm hoping to make a part II to this piece.
Vocal was created to allow users to freely communicate whatever is on their mind, so I think it's important we use it to express new ideas - even if those ideas pertain to the platform itself.
Wishing you all a happy week. Cheers. :)