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Superdesk Essentials: How to collaborate with external contributors

Integrating freelancers into your CMS
Integrating freelancers into your CMS

If you run an editorial operation, chances are you work with external contributors, vital partnerships that can nonetheless complicate your production pipeline. That’s because most content management systems don’t have an easy way to incorporate freelancers into their workflow, forcing editors to rely on a messy mix of emails, shared docs, and copy-and-paste solutions. 

Superdesk takes the pain out of the freelancer problem. In this post we’ll show you how to leave the inefficiencies behind as you streamline your collaboration with external contributors.

Option 1 

In Superdesk, there are two ways to improve your work with contributors. The first is to give writers outside your organisation restricted user privileges in the editorial back end itself, an option that is perfect for people you trust and frequently work with. 

To employ this method, you need to set up a new User Role. To do this, go to the “User Roles” tab under the “Settings” button via the main hamburger menu in the upper left corner of the Superdesk workspace.

Click the “Add New” button and name the new role. In this demo we’re onboarding freelancer content creators, so we’ll select “Writer” for both the “Content Creation” and “Content Editing” permissions.

Once the new role is saved, edit the default “Role Privileges.” In this example we want freelancers to be able to login and create a new piece of content, but that’s about it. We do not want to give our new freelancer the ability to delete content, update items, or publish, so in this example we will only enable the “Create Content” privilege.

Next, create a new user. Return to the main menu and select “User Management.” To create a new user, click the “Create User” button in the top right corner of the screen. Fill in the required fields and be sure to select the “Freelancer” role from the “Role” dropdown menu. 

Your newly-created freelancer will be able to access Superdesk using the single sign-on feature – just like any other user of your instance. The difference is that they will only be permitted to create content.

With this setup complete, your trusted freelancer can now access Superdesk in a limited way, working directly in the system to create and save their assignments.

Option 2 

Now, let’s say you have freelancers in your network that write infrequently, and you don’t want to set up a Superdesk user profile for all of them. In this case, the best solution is a new ingest source that will pull content directly into Superdesk from a dedicated email address. All your freelancers have to do is send their stories and photos to the email address you designate and Superdesk will do the rest.

To set this up, the first thing you need to do is create an email account for content filing. This should not be your personal account. When the ingest feed is turned on, everything that arrives to the account’s inbox will be ingested into Superdesk. In this tutorial we will use a Gmail address.

Next, we need to tell Superdesk to ingest content from this source by creating a new “Ingest” feed. Click on the “Ingest” button in the “Content Flow” section of the “Settings” tab, which can be accessed via the main hamburger menu. To create a new feed, click “Add New.” Set the feed to “Active” and give the feed a name. We will use “Freelancer email” for both the provider and the source name. Under “Feeding Service,” choose “Gmail.”

You now need to select the article types that Superdesk should ingest. This can be text, photos, graphics, audio, video, or any combination. 

Tell Superdesk how often to search for new content in the “Update Every” field; you can choose any time frame that makes sense for your operation. The “Notification” option is a feature that tells Superdesk to generate an alert email if no new content is detected after a certain amount of time. Organisations with large volumes of external content that are filed with high frequency should select a shorter time frame for notification.

To keep this feed clean, set content to “Expire” with greater frequency, like one or two days. And, if you want ingested items to be removed from the system after they are published, turn the “Allow Remove Ingested Items” toggle on. Don’t forget, the ingested items will also be saved in your email.

Now it’s time to connect your Gmail account to this ingest feed. To do that, simply click the “Log in with Gmail” button, choose your account, enter your password, and hit save.

That’s all there is to it. Once you’ve configured this ingest, anytime an email is received by your dedicated email address, Superdesk will pull it into your instance. From here you can update the metadata, add comments, tweak the headline, and send the piece off to an editor for editing. It’s really that easy to incorporate freelancers into your Superdesk workflow. 

For more tutorials on how to improve the operational efficiency of your news and editorial operation, check out Sourcefabric’s YouTube page or visit

Need more help? Try the Superdesk manual, or send us a note at [email protected]


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