Draft, a streamlined online word processor with version control, is getting deeper into the new professional publishing ecosystem.
The one-man team of Nathan Kontny has just introduced a new REST API that’ll let any news outfit or other publishing organization connect Draft to the other software it uses. If you’re BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post* or another media company with a big mix of full- and part-time writers, you could use the API to let writers and editors work through versions together in Draft then publish straight to your custom content management system.
Meanwhile, if you’re running a group blog using a standard setup from WordPress or Blogger and you want a more pristine, versioned environment, Draft now lets you publish from it to them.
Since launching in March, it has also added features to publish to Tumblr, Twitter and most recently LinkedIn and MailChimp (which should be particularly useful to content marketers).
Beyond publishing out, Kontny has also made it much easier to pull in content for a draft. He’s added audio and video transcription, a two-way sync tool with file storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, and a Chrome extension that lets you pull text into a new or existing draft.
The updates have been coming fast. He’s also built commenting so collaborators can discuss specific sections of a draft, and simple social analytics that let you measure tweets about your writing based on word count, day of the week and reading comprehension level.
Draft, and private-beta competitors like Editorially and Poetica (please invite me, folks) are trying to create a new writing-centric platform to go along with the leading publishing tools of the day. It plays friendly with publishing tools, but isn’t trying to deal with website design and hosting or massive backend content management.
The API and publishing options, the transcription and syncing tools, and comments all help it toward that goal.
I have a suggestion for an additional editing feature, that can be crucial to any pro writing team. When you share a link in Draft, your collaborator can only see and edit the most recent draft you share. They can’t view the entire set of them. If this person is, say, your editor at your publication, they need full access to see your thought process and any changes you make to their edits, and should have the power to publish.
And Kontny also may want to consider integration over development for other parts of Draft. Lots of companies provide great analytics tools for online publishing, like Chartbeat for articles or Hootsuite for social media management. Why not work to integrate with all of them instead?
This sort of refining will be crucial for any writing software that aims to be a part of publishing’s future. The big CMS companies are busy fleshing out the drafting side of things. WordPress.com recently pushed a great upgrade to its revisions tool, for example.
Meanwhile, more and more big new publishers, like Vox Media, are choosing to build their own CMSs in-house to gain full control over all aspects of the organization. Startups like Draft could become a part of each of these systems if they nail major sub-use cases, such as writing collaboration, particularly with features like the new API. But it’ll be challenging to balance the enterprise-level demands like the editor control I want with self-publishing needs like its freelance editor service.
I say this from personal experience. My own startup, WriteWith, tried to do some of each nearly a decade ago, and ended up doing neither well enough to survive.
*HuffPo got a mention because they’re one of the larger online news-oriented publishers out there, not because they’re also owned by TechCrunch parent company Aol.