Digital Directions: Keepers of the Brand
After college graduation, I was saddled with the challenge of wielding a liberal arts degree in a tough job market. My strategy was to throw myself into technology and grad school. Many classmates of mine went the traditional publishing route, nabbing junior editorial roles. This was … ahem! … a few decades ago, and the starting salary was around $15,000. In New York City. The feeble compensation was rationalized by the fact that publishing was a “glamour” profession, and since the editor was at the epicenter of prestige, many jumped at the chance to get these positions. What about now? What is the editorial role in the emerging digital content landscape, and does that role have the same level of importance?
To answer that, we need to sketch the diverse functions of the editorial role in the broadest sense, from acquisition through developmental and copyediting:
• Discovery of sources of content that are of value to an audience.
• Selection and prioritization of content for distribution.
• Correction and enhancement of content, often working collaboratively with authors to create verified, high-quality content.
• Compilation and arrangement of content.
• Refinement and design of content to maximize the clarity, utility and enjoyment of the offerings.
As diverse and critical as these functions may be, the digital content ecosystem increasingly suggests new models that make all of this seem somewhat moot:
• Drudge Report, which reportedly gets up to 20 million page views per month, eschews most editorial niceties of refinement and compilation. Instead, the news-aggregation site has a single-minded and unwavering emphasis on timeliness. Wrong headline? No problem: It can be corrected in a few minutes. In the meantime, the site gets the page views.
• Google solved the discovery problem, right?