If you’re a twenty-something, an avid internet surfer or just someone looking for some great writing, chances are you’ve heard of Thought Catalog. The digital magazine, whose audience has exploded since its launch in 2010, has built a following based on the mantra of being a platform for expression, open to all voices and designed for all readers.
Brandon Gorrell was brought onto Thought Catalog team as a writer in the summer of 2010, six months after the site launched. He’s watched it grow from a few hundred readers each day to a site that boasts six million unique visitors every month. Brandon’s grown along the way as well - moving the ranks from writer to full-time editorial position to now working as the director of editorial for Thought Catalog.
Brandon will be one of the panelists at our upcoming bitly breakfast, where he’ll talk more about how Thought Catalog finds its writers and give his advice to others looking to make a career out of writing.
We had the chance to speak with Brandon about his role at Thought Catalog and his own transition from aspiring writer to the man in charge of directing and managing traffic for a major website.
How would you describe Thought Catalog?
TC is an open platform for expression. The majority of our audience tends to find something that they relate to on a deeply personal basis whenever they browse the site. It’s a collection of thoughts from a very diverse range of people from around the world.
I feel really lucky to be apart of it - half of the success is being at the right place at the right time. We just happened to bring on certain writers and take notice of trends before a whole lot of other people did because we were in the right place at the right time. It feels really cool.
I’ve always been a little bit frustrated with certain writing conventions - to be taken seriously by a certain group of people, you had to write in a certain way. It was exciting when we found out we were breaking these conventions and doing things in a different way that really resonated with people. Not everyone wants to read standard, conventional writing, some people want different content that’s posted in a different way.
What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of being the director of editorial at Thought Catalog?
Essentially, I manage all of our writers and all of the content. I make sure that we hit our daily, weekly and monthly traffic goals as well as manage our social media accounts, deal with in-depth analytics and set up syndication deals with other blogs.
How does Thought Catalog find its writers?
A lot of it is through the submission form, where people can submit whatever they want. Around 80-90 percent of our writers on staff have come from our submission form.
We’ll also stumble upon blogs that are interesting and we’ll reach out to those people to see if they’re interested in contributing. What makes Thought Catalog special is that we’re taking submissions from people across the world.
A blog is good to look at if I’m thinking about trying to establish a formal relationship with [a writer]. A lot of contributors and staffers have their own blog. It’s a great benefit - you see certain bloggers all the time and it’s because they’re really good and they’re always saying something poignant on their blog. It’s a really great thing for aspiring writers - you just need to know how to use it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers and bloggers?
It depends on what type of writing you’re trying to get into. If you want to be a freelancer who makes the rounds on New York media, then having a blog is really important because it gives you a lot of training. If you’re writing every day about what’s going on in the world, that’s good practice.
Write and submit your work, it’ll help you work out the kinks in your writing. Don’t ignore them and don’t convince yourself they aren’t there - you should always be working on refining and noticing where there are problems.
In terms of time management skills, it’s hard work to be working every day and going home and being tired but if you want to be a writer, you have to prioritize that above your free time, above your procrastination. It’s about determination. One of the ways you can get writing and not have it be a chore is find topics that compel you to write or things that make you mad or happy - that’s a lot easier than approaching it from a perspective of “oh, I’m going to write to develop a portfolio.”
Brandon created a bundle of some of his favorite links, some great bloggers and some advice for those looking to start their own blog - you can take a look at it here.
Interested in hearing more from Brandon? Come join us on May 31 at bitly HQ for a breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. Featuring Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of Dumbo NYC and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog. Space is limited, so register here!6 months ago