I want to talk a bit about what I have been working on over the past few months, but especially the last couple of weeks. I needed to take the time to execute a plan I have come up with that should take what we do here to the next level. In just three years, this site has become more than I ever imagined it would be. That is thanks to all of you, our readers, more than anyone else. Now it is time for this place to evolve in hugely positive ways. These changes won't appear drastic. Hopefully, you will only notice them in passing, but they will have a major impact on how we operate internally and on the future of TWZ.
The reality is that just two people make up the content-side of The War Zone. Joe and myself. It's always fun when new defense industry, defense department, and media contacts ask about our operation. I always get the same response when I tell them we are a team of two—they had no idea the site wasn't far larger personnel-wise than it actually is. Usually, their reaction is anything from sort of stunned to nearly alarmed!
I truly believe in the lean and mean concept of operations and we have always been the little fighter that could punch way, way above their weight class. In fact, I see our size as an advantage, not a disadvantage, in many ways. But the fact of the matter is that there is so much more that we could be doing.
There is just only so much capacity two guys, no matter how passionate they are or how extreme their work ethic is, can provide. On top of that, we are known for breaking news analysis, huge features, and daily content that is unrelated to news events. In addition, we cover air, sea, land, space, some cyber, and roll it all up with a heavy dose of geopolitics. We also do major history pieces and even do humor and pop culture from time-to-time. It is an astonishing amount of ground to cover and to remain up to speed on for two dudes.
Simply put, there is nowhere like this on the internet and there is a good reason for that, producing this site is a full-on lifestyle, not a job. I don't intend to change that in any way. Even on the worst day around here, I can say I truly love what I do and feel absolutely blessed to have the opportunity, freedom, and support to do it.
Even with these factors and limitations in mind, I want to press down harder on the pedal to get us to a point where we are not capped by our need for sleep or the burnout factor, which let's face it, both of us are far beyond at this point anyway.
Wanting something and realizing it are two very different things. To be totally honest with all of you, I have had a hard time figuring out a way to expand while also keeping the quality and consistency what so many have come to expect—or more like demand—from us. On top of this, my goal was to try and build a model that is really scalable and efficient.
This is precisely where my focus has been. The problem is, this place just isn't the best fit for most traditional reporters with a narrow beat or someone who cranks out 700 words blogs for some tech site. Few have the breadth of knowledge on tap to write about all these topics and navigate the intricacies of how we handle each one of them. So, I began to look for people from very unique backgrounds, of different levels of expertise, and with an emphasis on non-traditional experience. Above all else, any candidate would have to be really passionate about conveying great stories and valuable information on our platform.
On top of all this, I also wanted to introduce a small number of entirely new segments to our feed that really don't exist anywhere else. Some of these will more directly address the awesome trends I have noticed in our commenting section and especially in our awesome "Bunker Talk" open discussion forum—a concept that continues to amaze me with each passing week.
I had my doubts, but after working with a select handful of potential new contributors, challenging them with absurdly tough assignments, and seeing if they could stand the scrutiny of me incessantly red-teaming every word of their work, I have been downright impressed by the result. You have only seen glimpses of this over the last month or so, but there is much more to come, as you will see very soon.
Keep in mind, not one word gets published on this site without my approval. This is no bullshit. There has never been a single post that went up without a full look from me and all my notes being integrated into it prior publishing. Not one. Every single article goes through the content wringer before it goes up. Anything I can think of that needs to be inserted, nuanced, changed, removed, reworded, or any extra research that needs to be done, gets done before publishing. And you know what? Joe reads every single one of my pieces and shoots me any notes he has, as well. I am not finicky about bylines or credit, but rest assured, every new contribution will have everything in it I would add or subtract. This is the only way the quality and rolling narrative of the site will stay intact.
I was worried that this would not be achievable, but by selecting the right people to do the job, those that get what this site is all about and were avid readers before joining the team, it is. In fact, what I am seeing is that these unique voices have the potential to greatly benefit the site in exciting new ways. And so far, the ones that I have moved forward, each and every one of them has one trait in common—they really do love a challenge and look to enhance their skills at any chance they get.
So yes, The War Zone is expanding and bringing a small group of new talent to bear to the immense swathe of topics we cover. As these select contributors get up to speed on all the crazy ins and outs of what we do and how we do it, I will have more time to get back to my own work. But it was absolutely key that I take advantage of the dog days of summer to drill down and see if all this can work—to get a system in place that I was comfortable with and to empower and guide our new contributors so that they can send increasingly polished finished product for me to look at. But once again, I can't stress enough, I am right there in the development of these pieces, as well. That doesn't mean I should get all the credit, far from it, our new teammates have worked ridiculously hard on the stories they are producing, but just remember you are getting the same highly refined content that you have come to expect from us, no less.
With that in mind, if you want to complain about something in the weeks to come, do it to me.
Also, these new contributors are not primarily here to do the bread and butter work. I am expecting them to be feature writers first. They are people that can take us to brand new places and do deep investigative work to break ground on tough topics and stories.
Beyond a few new bylines that will be popping up in the days to come, I am looking at leveraging new capabilities to enhance what we do, as well. In some cases, these may be relatively groundbreaking to the defense journalism world. More on this soon.
In addition, thanks to our highly-supportive owners, we have been given access to new resources that will help with really dialing in TWZ when it comes to user experience. A ton of work has gone on behind the scenes over the last six months to catch us up to where we had to be at the very minimum, now we are going to further optimize the site in multiple ways. So keep an eye out for that, as well.
Like I mentioned early on, it is my hope that none of this will be drastically apparent to even our most seasoned readers and our commenting crew. But all this is laying the groundwork for a really bright future for the little backwater channel of the internet we call home.
So, as always, let me know what you like and don't like. And give our new writers a chance to get settled in, although I don't think they are going to need it. You have already met a couple of them, and some may be far more familiar than you ever imagined. But suffice it to say, next week should be a fun one at TWZ as we have a couple of huge things coming from these new additions. It's also worth mention toning the stark reality that there will be growing pains. Maybe not every contributor or new segment will work out in the end, so keep that in mind as we move forward. The nature of the site has always been experimental, so none of that should be too surprising.
This is all happening as we continue to provide the same awesome coverage you have come to expect from us. And yes, another "Confessions Of" super feature should be posted soon, and it is sure to be a reader favorite.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who reads The War Zone, including those who send me awesome tips and introductions, who share our posts and interact with us on social media, who convey their awesome stories directly to us, who grab a shirt or two when we do special runs with Blipshift (just wait for the offering on August 1st!), and especially to our commenting crew who makes every day so much fun around here.
With all that said, it's time to phase out the A model and upgrade to the C model!
Thanks for remaining our loyal wingman,
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com