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From Editor to ‘Content Strategist’

Semantics or fundamental change?



By Matt Kinsman
07/01/2008

At the FOLIO: Publishing Summit earlier this year, Meredith Publishing Group president Jack Griffin said, “We don’t hire editors anymore, we hire content strategists.” He was referring to Meredith seeking out editors who aren’t simply about putting words on page but driving a multimedia editorial strategy.

But does the term “content strategist” represent a fundamental shift in editorial approach or is it just repackaging what editors have always done under a spiffy “new media” name? FOLIO: polled a selection of editors from the consumer and b-to-b sides on what the term “content strategist” means to them and the ramifications for the mindset of editors in their day-to-day jobs.

Wyatt Kash | editor-in-chief | GC
One of the biggest differences is the need to think more holistically about the user experience online. Both roles require understanding who your readers are and anticipating what will keep them engaged. In print, that usually means looking for, developing and packaging stories that are relevant to your reader. But online, you need to anticipate how and why people come to your site, what they’re looking for and how easy you make it for them to do some of the things they expect. We did a reader survey that found more than 25 percent of readers were getting our e-mail newsletters via smart phone (mostly Blackberry and Treos). If they clicked the link in the newsletter to read more of the story, they ended up on a Web page that was nearly impossible to read. We opted to build a set of mobile-friendly Web templates and today we get more than 50,000 page views a month from mobile viewers.

Monika Bauerlein | editor-in-chief | Mother Jones
In our opinion, there is no huge difference between an editor worth his or her salt and a content strategist. Both need to think about what kinds of stories to tell; how best to get those stories to an audience; and how best to get a conversation going between the audience and the institution. The difference is that the Internet enables editors, or whatever we chose to call them, to take advantage of that two-way street in many more ways than used to be possible in the past. In our work as editors/content strategists, we’re always thinking about which medium is best for telling any given story and how to make the two formats reinforce each other rather than compete with each other. The best example that comes to mind is our Iraq War timeline, which worked very well in print as an in-depth project and then online as an interactive tool.

Arnie Weissmann | editor-in-chief | Travel Weekly
The ‘traditional editorial role’ hasn’t really existed for more than 20 years. We all became content strategists as soon as we became aware of CompuServe and the other early online services. We maintain the title ‘editor’ because ‘content strategist’ looks pretentious in the masthead. But what editor wouldn’t weigh how to exploit—and balance—every available distribution option? Travel Weekly had an aggressive Web strategy early but in reality we got ahead of ourselves. When we re-launched the Web site earlier this year, it not only had a new look, it had a completely new business plan. Editors today can’t just look at print and Web distribution in a vacuum. Our stories must provide more information—contextual information—to readers quickly or they’ll likely be disappointed.

Gayle Butler | editor-in-chief | Better Homes & Gardens
A content strategist must not only create great content but also understand how to make sure that content reaches the consumer when, how and where she wants it. Ten or 20 years ago, perhaps a magazine could just push out editorial and wait for the consumer to come to us. Now we have to know that consumer better, understand her needs more intimately and put her at the center of everything we do. It’s much bigger than just thinking of digital as an ‘extension’ of the magazine. When we announced plans to launch an extensive home line with Wal-Mart later this year, I found myself looking at and thinking about how the consumer will react to the Better Homes and Gardens brand name on products they will use.

By Matt Kinsman
07/01/2008







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