Related posts, Offbeat Empire's girth, and the next two sites we're launching

By on Jul. 11th

It's time for another round of reader questions. Not wedding advice, just questions about Offbeat Bride and the Offbeat Empire.

What's up with the related links at the end of each post? I saw one about gout and was like WTF?!

HA! Yes, sometimes the concept of "related" feels a little tenuous, doesn't it? Those posts are served up by a service called Outbrain. The thumbnails include three Offbeat Bride posts and one related-ish post from another blog. The links beneath are all to other blogs that use the Outbrain service. Each link includes a parenthetical notation of which blog it's coming from, so it's easy to see which are native Offbeat content and which are links to other sites.

We just added the module a couple months ago, and I spent the first few weeks doing a TON of tweaks to the blacklist of URLs and post titles that weren't allowed. The Offbeat Empire has a pretty clear voice, and of course I can't expect all other websites to adhere to that, so I had to see if I could find trigger words to screen out shady shit. I've got things pretty well set, but every now and then something weird will slip in — like that gout post. I also see a lot of posts that I really like down there — uncommon wedding cakes, couture wedding gown inspiration, interesting newsy bits. For the most party, I'm super happy with Outbrain.

That said, if you ever see anything in the Related Posts or Elsewhere links that strike you as offensive, email us right away with the title of the linked post and the website (ie "Battle of the bulge: you look fat in your tacky wedding dress (StyleCaster)"). We'll get the offended link off the site immediately, and update our blacklist accordingly. Please do not leave a comment on the post where you saw the link.

Speaking of which, wanna see the current blacklist? It's kind of hilarious. If one of these words appears in the post link, the post will not appear on any Offbeat Empire site: aging, arthritis, bikini, body, boobs, calories, carat, cheat, cheating, credit, deaths, debt, diet, divorce, fat, fail, genocide, gout, homicide, Kardashian, killing, males, middleton, royal, Schwarzenegger, sex, skinnier, tacky, teeth, thin, thinner, too old, tummy, weight, will kate, workout.

UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to everyone who's been emailing. I realize that I should be more clear about the kinds of links I'm looking to block. Not every link is going to be a perfect fit, which is ok with me. The one's I'm looking to block are the links stand in stark contrast to Offbeat Bride's values. We're talking stuff like really negative body image posts, disturbing gender stereotypes, snarky/bitchy anti-feminist posts, etc. I'm ok with not every related link feeling like it could have been written by an Offbeat Bride editor — what I'm not ok with is perpetrating hateful, body-hating, anti-woman garbage.

How big is the Offbeat Empire?

Don't be fooled by the tongue-in-cheek name. In terms of regularly paid staff, the Empire is me and a few other women who work part-time (usually in their homes, usually in their pajamas). I've got three editors and a developer, copyeditor, community manager, and ad sales rep. There are a couple other folks who do project-based work or internships, but that's pretty much it. (Reminder: you can see for yourself just how tiny the Empire is if you join us this fall at the Geek Girl Con!)

A staff this small means two things:

  1. A real person (often me) reads every single email we receive.
  2. We don't always have time to respond to all those emails.

I'm always baffled when I reply to an email and people are like, "OMG, YOU WROTE ME BACK." Dudes: I am a nerd sitting on my butt reading emails all day, just like you. I once heard about someone saying "I got a message from Ariel — or someone monitoring her email," and my brain almost exploded. In some people's minds, apparently I have a staff of grape-peeling pool boys who fan me with palm fronds and also answer email for me! It's sort of flattering, but also sort of baffling. Bloggers: we're just like you. Only nerdier.

What's the next Offbeat Empire site?

We have two we're working on, and they might not be what you'd expect (or even want! HA!). No Offbeat Work. No Offbeat Travel. Nope, the next one will just be a behind-the-scenes Offbeat Empire business blog, where I can dork out on marketing, content strategies, management, business communications, etc.

The one after that is a total departure from the Empire format. To be perfectly honest, we're all a little beaten down by the heavy topics, heavy editing, and intensive comment moderation. The next site will feature stupid internet memes that are making me and my editors laugh — we're talking crap like lolcats, dancing baby videos, stupid dog pictures, and the like. It's like if the Offbeat Empire had a totally consensual digital gang-bang with The Daily What, BuzzFeed, Laughing Squid, and Best Week Ever. There won't be comments — you'll have three options: LIKE, SHARE, CLOSE YOUR BROWSER WINDOW. The primary goal for the site will be the entertainment of myself and the other Empire editors, and we'd love it if you came along for a laugh with us.

In terms of timeline? No timeline. It's summer! Despite being a devoted web nerd, I'm trying to spend a little more time outdoors until the Seattle rains return. Ask me in September about timelines. :)

Any burning questions I missed? Ask away in the comments!