Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Is the new wave of job diversification drowning
B2B editorial staff performance efforts???
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
It seems only yesterday that I was a panelist at an industry workshop focusing on future trends
affecting B2B editors. At the time, online journalism was yet to arrive on the scene. Meanwhile,
the obvious wave of the future, I believed, would see the "editor" title encompassing more diverse
roles. And everybody needed to get into the act.
To clarify challenges involved, I presented an "Editorial Miracle Worker" self-scoring profile. My
contention: success could be measured by an ability to wear at least ten hats well. One such hat,
of course, was "highly-skilled editor and writer." The other nine: magician, assassin, marketing
wizard, technology expert, graphics guru, show business star, teacher, customer service
specialist, industry maven/statistician.
Back then, the audience agreed that diversity was a good thing. Today, I am not so sure.
Perhaps the one-time wave of the future has assumed tsunami proportions. What set me off on
this depressing note were presentations made during a recent "State of the Industry" luncheon
sponsored by the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors.
Among other messages, the audience heard that the term "editor" was outdated. Instead, the
wave of the future dictates the wisdom of allegedly more descriptive titles like "community
manager" and "content specialist." Past practice, it was noted, called for editors to focus on
managing staff, superstars and stringers. The present more likely finds editors wearing many new
hats including content aggregator, analytics examiner, social media manager, podcast creator,
video producer and many more.
So I wondered -- with all these extra hats to wear, the built-in double duty of overseeing print and
online activity plus rigid staff size controls -- has this wave of the future really remained promising?
In the process of mulling, I recalled attending a recent Poynter Institute workshop focusing on
journalism ethical concerns. As I scanned the room of attendees, I realized that many newspaper
superstars were present. Here were several talented individuals who probably didn't need to
wear countless hats well. Their prime focus day after was on delivering the highest quality, well-
researched content to expectant audiences.
Today, I don't have any special argument with the introduction of new titles or the wearing of
multiple hats. But what's clearly wrong with this picture -- and I know many editors agree -- is the
deterioration of editorial quality that seems to be an accompanying rising tide. The best personal
example I can offer validating my concern is the notable absence of enterprise reporting found in
three successive Editorial Solutions, Inc. e-news delivery studies. Meanwhile, countless
opportunities exist to deliver in-depth, exclusive analysis of important trends either online or in
print (or both). The issue: do we have time for either endeavor, or are all those new hats we
wear now getting in the way?
One route to clarifying my concern -- and I doubt this will happen anytime soon -- is for every
publication to conduct its own self-scoring performance study. If interested, follow this process:
*Work within the framework of a 20-25 day work month.
*Identify all the hats editorial staff members wear consistently.
*Track the time each hat is worn. It may be easier to do this if you distinguish between online
and print responsibilities.
*When the deed is done, document total percentage of staff time devoted to original writing. To
be clear, this total should not include editing the work of others.
*Are you satisified with the result of the original writing calculation? If not, how can performance
in this vital area be upgraded?
Yes . . . enterprising journalism effort must ride the wave of the future, not be dragged below by
the burden of wearing all those new hats!! Hopefully you agree.