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If the saying goes that content is King, today’s warring agendas, varying competence and vulgar chaos would put Game of Thrones to shame.

In the effort to rule their industry, almost every player has ended up churning out the same old slurry by neglecting a key element of creating great stories.

It comes down to this: the world doesn’t need more content, it needs better editors.

A good editor establishes a fair, consistent point of view. They bring priorities, standards. They understand when to say no -- and why.

It’s a concept that (forgive me) Steve Jobs brought to Apple, and rings through its most heartfelt advertising.

Leave it out

It’s not an instinct that everyone has. And marketers need to get a grip on this fact.

Too many marketing teams are kidding themselves that they can write, interview, or unlock the extra essence that takes the finished product to the next level.

And that word: 'content'. It’s like calling a beautiful crafted cup of coffee a beverage. It misses what the substance is all about.

That’s not to say these teams are all awful, but look at it this way. While they trudge our generic slurry, there’s a huge crowd of talented, struggling, born creators that basically can’t manage to monetise their passion for what they love.

May contain posts

And what about form? Great editors know form and content are two sides of the same coin. In publishing, we’re seeing a grand resurgence of open-minded experimentation with how you present a story.

Forget Snow Fall, it doesn’t have to be anything so grand. Just presenting material in the way it’s going to be useful is improvement enough. And no, that doesn’t mean an infographic.

It means questions like: Why would you launch a blog with 'tags' or 'archive' in the sidebar? Why would you call it a blog, what does that mean in 2014? What could it mean?

What should it mean strategically for your business and what does it need to mean to stand out to readers and keep them coming back for more?

The real measure

Finally, good editors know how to measure progress and success. But they don’t just enslave themselves to making arbitrary numbers bigger.

They find a balance between instinct and iteration, confident enough to take chances and walk a more irrational path where their intuition dictates. But cautious enough never to lead everyone off the cliff.

Some of that comes with experience. Experience you won’t get by simply sitting your junior marketing person down in front of Wordpress. The world of telling great stories that generate value for your business deserves a more dignified and confident approach. But the first step is admitting you have a problem

Forget content, find yourself a real editor.

Econsultancy has released a new content guide, 100+ Practical Content Marketing Tips: A how-to guide for editors, writers and content creators which presents the lessons we've learned from ten years of writing for this blog. 

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Published 17 June, 2014 by Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is Founding Director of Augur, and writes about what's next in the world of technology, marketing and startups. He is a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

17 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Paul Keers

Sadly, there are some clients who still seem to think that editors are grand figures out of The Devil Wears Prada, or that it's some kind of honorific figurehead role which needs to remain within the client company itself. I explored this issue for the Content Marketing Association here: http://www.the-cma.com/news/editorial-content-needs-editors

almost 2 years ago

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Arvindh Sundar

Hi Max,

Valid point on focussing on the editor. However, I feel that there is one caveat: The way we have the content 'producers' being diluted, I fear that the editorial position will be watered down in the near future.

What will differentiate a good editor from the rest of the pack would be:
1) Results
2) The way they marry the form and function.

P.s.
I had also written about finding good content on the internet. In fact, I feel that my post is sort of a prelude to yours and nicely segues into it. If you have the time, do check it out: http://arvindhsundar.com/good-content/

Thank you.

almost 2 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Thanks for the comments guys. Was trying to find a concise way to sum all this up -- it's one of the core tenets of Augur.

almost 2 years ago

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Jonny Rose (from idio)

Arvindh, interesting that you think the role of the editor might be "watered down"

On the contrary, depending on how much appetite wordsmiths have to develop new skills, there is tremendous opportunity for them to bolster their positions over the coming years.

I think the next generation of editors are going to be part-creative & part data-scientist. idio made the case for it here on a previous Econsultancy post: https://econsultancy.com/blog/7873-content-analytics-for-marketers

almost 2 years ago

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Scott Abel

What we really need are tools that guide writers to avoid common mistakes editors are often put in charge of catching. Leveraging a tool like Acrolinx.com would allow editors to focus on the real job: Improving the value of the content, instead of the less valuable busy work of catching typos, grammar, and style errors.

The opportunity for editors to grow their careers and to become stewards of exceptional content experiences should be the goal. That will involve new skills and some re-engineering of the content production lifecycle in many organizations.

Change will happen, though, whether editors lead the way—or are dragged behind, kicking and screaming.

almost 2 years ago

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Tim Kornegay

Great article! Keep crying aloud and spare not! We editors need more advocates like you.

almost 2 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Pleasure @Tim, would be interested to understand from what kind of background you come into this and what kind of editor your describe yourself as.

almost 2 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Scott, Jonny, interesting that you think tools need to play a big role for the successful editor. I think strong processes can help and a little bit of attention to such utilities and use of data can go a long way. There is such a think as over-engineering though...

almost 2 years ago

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Jody Winter, Documentation Specialist/Technical Writer at Jody Winter

Max, I might have just realised a new career. I'm a technical writer but editing is my real passion. I also love the internet and find myself criticising websites all the time.. Maybe content editing is the way forward for me? Trouble is, I live in New Zealand which is not the biggest opportunity pool!

over 1 year ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Jody, I think the key thing is to prove your authority out there somewhere. Become known for doing a great job in that area, bearing in mind curation can be just as much a part of showing your taste and instinct there.

over 1 year ago

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