Digital Directions: Keepers of the Brand
• Wikipedia allows communities of interest to correct and enhance encyclopedia entries.
• Digg, a social news Web site, uses reader-driven ratings to automatically prioritize content. If an editor’s role is a proxy for a community of interest, why not just go directly to the community of interest? Digg does!
Through user customization options, many content providers, such as Yahoo, give the role of compilation and arrangement to the end-user.
The Social Impact
General characteristics of the emerging digital content delivery model suggest a loss of traditional editorial control. Content is created in a social context such as blog entries, Twitter tweets, or audience comments on commercially created material.
The social aspect of the digital content landscape is perhaps the most challenging to the editorial role, particularly for non-fiction works. Two key functions of the editorial role are the selection of elements of content and the prioritization among these elements—a key form of publishing-value creation. Social media platforms such as Digg and Wikipedia provide these functions. Online peer-review platforms also provide the opportunity for communities of interest to select and prioritize content.
For that matter, what is the value of copyediting? In the age of texting and tweets, a population is emerging apparently indifferent to issues pertaining to grammar and style. From a market perspective, is the value of copyediting as great as speed of delivery?
An Evolving, but Significant Role
Well, Virginia, I do believe the editorial role will continue to have as much value in the digital landscape as it did in traditional publishing. Like so many roles in the content world, the editor’s function will need to evolve. But, even in the realm of dynamic, customized, socially contextualized content, editors provide a critical, strategic role:
• Quality. Any activity performed by an individual professionally devoted to that activity will yield a higher-quality result than if performed by one not so devoted. Professionals, on average, do a better job than dilettantes. Some of the more quantifiable characteristics of content quality are clarity, accuracy and primacy.