When I started in magazines back in the late 80s, I was a writer then an editor. I was an editor of one sort or another until Netscape Navigator took over the world and the disruption began… the Job Title disruption.
Since any reference to ‘editor’ or ‘editorial’ was expunged from my job description, I’ve had a variety of content-based designations. It never really bothered me, I was always more concerned with trying to shoehorn the magazine brands I worked for into the developing digital space than what I was called, and I’ve been called a lot worse than ‘Content Manager’.
But if I’m being really honest I missed being able to tell people I was an editor. People had some idea what an editor did and we lost an easy way to describe how an editor should be spending their time when we stopped calling them editors. And while many publishers saw it as a way to modernise their teams, we know re-labeling people isn’t really enough: We’ll be forever grateful to the inimitable Private Frazer for pointing out…
Calling your editors ‘content managers’ is not a digital strategy.”
So it was genuinely heartening to read Gerrit Klein of German magazine company Ebner Verlaguse use the ‘E’ word again, even if it is with a huge qualifier.
Writing on the FIPP website in May, he talked about the changes that his business has made in editorial roles as a result of digital. Reassuringly, his point is not that editors should stop being editors – good copy will always be important he says – but that they need to start judging their success by how many ‘transactions’ they trigger.
By transactions he means shares, registrations, downloads and, yes, purchases. With these objectives, his editors are encouraged to uphold old-school editorial values, but ditch the ‘print and forget’ attitudes and start seeing publication as the starting point of a relationship with the audience. Distribution, context and call to action have become as important as a good lead paragraph.
I love the balance of this approach. Editors might get a bit sniffy about the marketplace connotations of the transaction part, but they need to see audience calls to action as part of the job. The best people to ‘sell’ a magazine’s stories are the people that create them. Engaging audiences by joining the dots between all the relevant pieces of content a publisher has; highlighting the different ways content can be accessed, even purchased; encouraging comments and conversation…
When good content is not enough and social sharing and amplification are key, sparking transactions is an ever increasing part of the modern editors job.