“The Days of Editors Saying ‘I Want To Write About This’ Are Numbered”
The changing role of edit in the pursuit of “marketing services.”
Social media? So 2009. This year the publishing catchphrase is "marketing services" (with of course, a strong social media component). Depending on your definition, magazine publishers have always offered "marketing services," but today that increasingly has come to mean going beyond custom publishing and targeting below-the line-budgets ranging from direct marketing and lead gen to consumer or trade promotion, events, even market intelligence. Increasingly, publishers are bypassing the agencies to work directly with the brand on the marketing message.
But if the publisher now has direct access (or even input) on the marketing message, what does that mean for traditional publishing roles, such as editors and salespeople? While salespeople focus on the consultative sale rather than just slinging inventory, editors are walking that fine line between editorial independence and client obligation. Business-to-business publisher Watt is offering to develop social media strategies for clients, which includes editors doing "ghost blogs" by interviewing project managers, then writing up a blog post under the client’s brand based on that conversation. Watt is charging $100 to $200 per blog posting.
McGraw-Hill considers the topic of marketing services to be a nomenclature issue, since they’ve offered similar services for generations. However, editors are becoming more targeted in both their traditional outlets as well as more client-oriented work. "Many of these services we’ve never viewed as publishing solutions," Glenn Goldberg, president of McGraw-Hill’s Information & Media segment, tells me. "But increasingly there is a need for edit and there’s a question of how you define that. We will never mess with the independence and integrity of the edit process. There are some immutable truths to doing editorial properly. People are making big ticket decisions based in large part on edit, and you want the best people offering an independent view."
Having said that, Goldberg, continues "We need to deliver value in a lineup of other products and services. With AviationWeek, for example, we have wonderful journalists who know the business but we also know there are certain needs those customer segments have. We won’t tell them what to write but based on that knowledge there are needs that customers want written about. The days of editors saying ‘I want to write about this’ are numbered."
To some extent, that’s always been the case. Editors have always been bound to the editorial calendar and if you’re not writing about topics that at least appeal to advertisers, there’s no advertising. But editors increasingly will be expected to not just write about that category but provide content or at least market expertise for specific clients.
On the bright side, maybe it means more job security. And as management sees edit shift from cost center to revenue producer, who knows–maybe it means a bump in pay too.