Over the years I have written several articles for submission to the editors of print publications. They never made the cut. There was always some reason why: not long enough, too edgy, you haven't published somewhere else, etc.
One of such articles described how we had used our internal marketing resources while the market was soft to rebrand the company and get ready for a growth spur. It was a pretty interesting case study in taking your own advice -- still, no dice.
Many print publication editors are now setting their sights on the new media promised land.
That is the domain of a new breed of editors -- they can move fast, embrace the diversity of thought of their readers and at the same time hold the threads of their publication so it is a consistent and valuable experience.
In other words, they are both orchestra conductors and players. Allow me to introduce you to these new media editors by starting with Ann Handley, MarketingProfs. Ann also writes for the Huffington Post.
Traditional publishers may lump Internet, radio and TV in this category under the umbrella of multimedia. Yet everyone is after the same attention pool.
I was on vacation a few weeks ago when I read in the Maine Sunday Telegram about its plans to marry its print and web site publishing divisions, and I thought, "Well, DUH." Isn't that a little crazy—that newspapers still consider their online and offline editions to be in separate orbits. My question is: Why? Media should be reaching their audiences wherever those audiences happen to be—in this case, online in addition to sitting on the couch at home.
Online is fast becoming a very competitive business model—how do you keep the value from turning into commodity?
Ann: It's always been an editor's job to ensure the quality—and I think that includes the concept of uniqueness, which forestalls commoditization—of what their publication is publishing, online or offline, to ensure that it's not just a commodity. It's an editor's mission to be the caretaker of content quality, to meet the needs of the audience or community first. I know that ambition probably sounds a tad grand, but it nonetheless is the ultimate goal of any good publication, in my mind.
Publishers can leverage the quality that editors and writers build with advertisers and sponsors, certainly—that's the dance between editorial and advertising. But the quality of content has to be in place first.
You retain editorial control over the number of posts and flow of the publication. How do you plan your weeks/days?
Ann: MarketingProfs produces a lot of content—the blog along with newsletters (MarketingProfs Today and Get to the Point), Know-How Exchange forum, seminars, case studies, templates, guides, and so on. While there are certain things I own on a daily basis—publishing blog posts, for example—I also rely on a team of very talented people here to do much of the heavy lifting. There is no editorial calendar, per se, in part because of the online nature of the entire operation and in part because a good deal of it is user-driven.
How do you keep things relevant and sustainable at your publication? What is your definition of success?
Ann: There's a ton of information out there. There's a lot of stuff that lands in our inboxes and mailboxes on a daily basis. The volume is overwhelming. Some of it's good, and some of it's not. My editorial focus at MarketingProfs is to shine a beacon of light for our readers—leading the way through the clutter.
How? By finding the top people in our audience who are experts in their respective fields or areas of expertise. Those are the people who produce all of our great content. They write for us, they lead virtual seminars, they produce templates and other tools to help marketers navigate their way.
And I know it's a successful strategy, because I hear it from our readers and subscribers every day.
What is your strategy for inviting contributors?
Ann: I look for contributors who are smart, who know their field well, who have some track record and demonstrated experience, and who write well—since, usually, the best writers are also the clearest thinkers. I also look for a good smattering of all disciplines… representatives from all walks of marketing.
And, finally, I look for contributors who have another quality, which is harder to quantify: I call it a "generous spirit." What I really mean by that is someone who wants to help their peers and colleagues in the industry, who truly wants to share knowledge and experience and perspective, and learn from others, too. It's obvious when a potential contributor is in it just for themselves—for what they can milk from our audience and exposure. And those are the people who don't last.
Do popularity and voice play a larger role in inviting contributors than publications' focus?
Ann: Well, voice matters… because that has to do with writing ability. But I don't care whether writers are already popular. I'm actually more concerned with popularizing writers and ideas that deserve to be but aren't. Yet. Giving them voice, so to speak.
Where do you draw inspiration? Do you read other online publications? Which ones? How are you influenced by them?
Ann: Generally, I get more true inspiration from non-marketing sites and publications than from industry stuff, but I read industry pubs to keep on top of the news and events. And I am addicted to blogs—it's a way to both unwind and wind myself up.
Outside of business, I am a huge fan of the New Yorker. Online, I love the Huffington Post and Salon. And finally I love Larry Dobrow's Magazine Rack column for MediaPost. I shouldn't—because I don't really care about magazine reviews—but his writing is sharp and funny.
Do you feel threatened by the idea of user created media? How is what you do different from user created content? Is there still a place for traditional editors in the 21st century?
Ann: Wow. Is that all one question? ; )
Do I feel threatened: No. I love the idea and embrace it fully. An active and engaged audience is a beautiful thing.
How is it different…: Well, most of it is not different, because much of our content is written for and by readers and subscribers. The blog, for example, is really user-generated content by and for professionals. The MarketingProfs Know-How Exchange—our Q&A forum—is purely user-generated, as well. And even the MarketingProfs Today weekly newsletter relies on outside contributors for much its content, making its editorial largely user-driven.
Still a place for traditional editors: Lord I hope so. Can you imagine what a mess sites would be without us? I'm kidding—sort of. But no matter how good the content—they'll always be a role for editors to shape and manage content. Especially now, with the proliferation of content, that includes acting as a filter. So as the ease of publishing and creating content has increased, I actually see the role an editor plays also increasing, not diminishing.
Any aha moments you'd like to share?
Ann: This is a really exciting time to be working in media online. The advent of Web 2.0 applications and rise of social media is adding an incredible amount of texture and nuance and twists to publishing. Which is to say that it seems I have an “a-ha!” moment at least once a day!
In other words: Right here is a very cool place to be.