Indeed, the duties and functions of the role have changed so much in the past decade, the role of the editor was included as a session at the 2015 FIPP World Congress last year in Toronto.
Olivier Royant, editor-in-chief of Paris Match, showed a photo of a plate spinner to describe his job in 2015, at the FIPP World Congress. “Today, they see me running from one office to another,” he said, “juggling with plates, and sometimes breaking plates.”
“As an editor today, I find that we are in the middle of a triangle,” Royant said. “On one hand, what we know to do: journalism… second, our new job is to engage, monetise, find new audiences… and then we have a third part, technology, which is about integrating news flow.”
We’re still curious about how roles are changing, shifting and evolving, so in a series of quick interviews, FIPP asked editors about the changes.
I’m not a typical editor. I’m a writer first. That’s what my career has largely been. I’ve come to editing a little bit later on, through the side door, through founding Eighteen Bridges. A lot of that editing experience I have really has evolved out of my teaching for the University of Alberta, the Banff Centre, Grant MacEwan University. I’ve always come at editing from a very writerly, literary point of view.
What I suppose has changed, what has become more apparent is that my role has to involve fundraising, looking for money, being part of the business and publishing side. That separation between church and state is a luxury of the past. That’s something I’d always romanticised about the magazine industry. Maybe David Remnick doesn’t have to worry about going out and raising money to pay his writers, I don’t know, but I do. That has been my reality of editing. It was a change from what my perception or envisioning of the role would be.
We’ve always had longer hours and do more with less. We’ve never really had the luxury of having lots to work with, to begin with. I don’t think that’s really changed much.
We definitely spread things around. Part of it is because we’re so underfunded and haphazardly funded. We don’t have a digital editor, we don’t have a web editor, so we do things by committee. People who are good at certain things, they end up getting that job… they’re almost all volunteers who take on certain roles because they’re good at it.
I think in some ways, being an editor and delegating is a lot like being an editor and assigning stories. You have to be really, really good, you have to love many different kinds of talent. Some people are great at writing longer stories, some people are good at 800-word front of book pieces, some people are great researchers, some people have a great gift for metaphor. Being a great editor relies on seeing those talents and supporting those strengths.
You’re a teacher, you’re a coach, you’re an enabler, you’re a supporter, you’re a sympathizer. You help people understand what their strengths are and maximize those.
The most important part of my job has really never changed: I oversee a team whose top priority is creating the most compelling, inspiring, useful, authoritative, meaningful and engaging content to address the needs and wants of our extensive audience—25+ million readers—regardless of where or how they consume our content. That said, how we do this has changed a great deal, particularly recently.
One of the big shifts we’re seeing in the industry is in the relationship between the business and editorial side. We have become much more collaborative. We work closely to ensure all facets of the brand are aligned. My team and I offer direction and guidance to our sales and marketing partners on crafting the most engaging messaging for our audience on all levels. Every aspect of the brand (editorial, online, social, marketing and advertising) intersects, and should carry a consistent voice throughout, delivering the highest value across every platform.
Our industry is no longer just about printing a story on paper. Every single day, we are on the lookout for new ways to interact with our readers, while maintaining the same high standards GH has held for the past 130 years. You have to be ahead of the trends, or make them yourself. There is no formula to follow. It’s about reaching our audience wherever they are, at any time. You also need to be open to change, be a part of that change, and understand when and where it makes sense for your business to make those changes.
We are always engaging our audience and co-creating content with partners to grow our business. One example was in our response to readers’ inquiries requesting easier ways to find and purchase their favorite items from the issue. GH launched a new partnership with Keep.com, a destination shopping site that curates products from all e-commerce stores, allowing us to expand our footprint and give our readers a way to shop the entire issue via Keep’s website or their app. Some items from the June issue include: Top Tested Gifts For Dads And Grads from the experts at the GH Institute (everything from BBQ tools to a desk fan) and A Week Worth Of Awesome Outfits from our Austin fashion story.
As an editor-in-chief, my advice would be to keep a constant eye on the big picture (well beyond your medium, your brand or your industry), but be sure to think surgically and strategically. You need to drill down and be slightly micro: truly understand your brand’s strengths, your audience, and your process. The better you grasp the details, the more effective you’ll be at making the bigger decisions for your business.
The role of editor is now constantly changing - there is something new to learn and do every single month. I regard part of my role to be constantly on the look-out for new ways to extend the brand, whether that's partnering with another publication (like our partnership with Mirror.co.uk's technology section), trying new technologies, or working with our technology team to improve our site. That's what makes the role of editor both more challenging than ever, but also I think more exciting.
Although I'm not working longer hours, the internet and its pace means there's less down time. On a print magazine, there is always the couple of days after press day when, in theory, you can sit back, take stock, and work on something a little more long term. Online. there is no down time – and thanks to always-on communications, you're never far away from work.
I'm lucky enough to work on a site which is well-funded and doing well, so rather than doing more with less, I'm expected to do "more with more" – a bigger team means that you can do more, and there's no excuse for not doing it. Thankfully, the size of my team means I don't have to do too much copy editing – but I definitely do quite a lot of tweeting!
Digital has changed everything, and especially what journalists actually do. When I started, and for much of my career, journalism was about two things: finding the story, and writing it. Now, a journalist has to find stories, research keywords, look at whether the story will work on social media, write the story, do tweets, social posts, update the story as it changes (potentially for months in the future) and much more. I'd say that a modern journalist will only spend 30 per cent of the time writing – the rest is promoting, researching, content strategy and more.
I think that the move to digital has forced editors into a mind-set change. One mindset change has been to divorce the brand from the platform: Alphr isn't just a magazine, it's a brand which could potentially be an app, a magazine, a TV show, or a channel on Snapchat Discover. The second mind-set change has been that editors now have to be much more curious and amenable to change. You can't rest on your laurels, or assume that everything you learned in the past is applicable now. Much of it will be, but you have to be prepared to rethink things on the fly at times.
Print, online, social media - what is used to describe the work of different editors, is presently the work of one. The classic print editor does not really exist anymore and will probably be redundant in the long-term. Likely, the online sector will dominate the work of an editor in the future.
The industry is still looking for the ideal recipe - but doing more with less is an accurate description. Additionally, a moderate and intelligent portion of organisational work and a passion for the subject is helpful. At least in theory. In practice, it is a long process to bring order into the daily editorial.
Online journalism brings great challenges with it: Often, quantity and speed is considered over quality. However, for specialist publishers like us, this creates an advantage - we do not compete with daily newspapers - our topics are usually timeless and more sophisticated. Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves: How can we publish the maximum quantity while maintaining the quality standard?
We create content - not magazines. This is the way we think at the MM-Musik-Media. This self-perception overcomes the boundaries of the different publishing platforms.
What advice do you have for other editors who may be seeing their functions and role changing, too?
See yourself as a content creator and not as an editor that serves one or more specific platforms. The digitalisation has given us the opportunity to reach a larger community, especially internationally.
I am not a classical editor anymore. It’s all about analysis, techniques, strategies and all kinds of digital marketing – I feel more like a marketer than a classical journalist. And I am completely out of the print product production. But, I am still able to produce content – and this is important and helpful. In my special case I´m not a ‘transaction editor’ only, I took over the responsibility of all social media activities in our publishing house. As head of social media, I am in charge of almost 140 different social media channels.
Actually, no wonder – more tasks means more work. Yes, I am working more than ever before. I had to learn better time management, to manage the different projects. Things are changing fast, nearly every day.
Sure. But, everything we do is no coincidence. We need to test, we need to fail – to learn and to get better. If you don’t change your mind as well, you won’t be able to deal with this challenge!
Keep calm and see it as an opportunity. Yes, the world is running faster, and you don’t have to like everything that is coming up these days. But to stand against it, or to hold on to old things means to abolish yourself. If you accept the challenge, it can be fun.
I can not really answer that question because I do not practically know the “older” content editors job profile. [She's right. Content editors didn't exist in the sense we know them now, even a decade ago].
It seems rather like doing more with just as much, doing project managing, tweeting, posting, copy editing and all that. But you definitely need the content which you can deal with. Without the content that obviously must have been produced and written before – by the way: it takes the same time in hours like ever before – you could not do all that transaction-based publishing. I do a bit of everything: 25 per cent writing/producing, 25 per cent project managing, 25 per cent social media, and 25 per cent assigning/re-publishing/investigating.
I guess so. A couple years ago, editors published content and forgot. Ebner Verlag is teaching their content editors to publish and reuse. Nowadays, publishing companies try to reach more people not only via print but additionally via websites, social media, blogs, mobile and apps.
Probably both of it and influences each other. But before mindsets are changing there must have been a reason for that. Why should you change if everything works pretty well? As we know, companies are struggling for a number of years generating revenue with print and traditional advertising. So in reaction, publishers changed their strategies - keywords are content marketing and native advertising - and we are not finished yet, if ever.
Are you an editor who has an opinion on this subject? Let Jessica know!
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