Content Marketing Editors Branded Content

In praise of the editor – the person who turns content into great content


By Jon Davie | UK chief executive

November 12, 2014 | 4 min read

We recently ran a client workshop that examined the differences between a ‘traditional’ publishing operation and the new generation of digital-first publishers.

The old days may be over – but editors should still be prized

The defining characteristic of traditional newspaper and magazine operations is specialisation – lots of different roles, each dedicated to a specific task: reporters report, editors commission, picture editors source photography and subs check copy, add headlines and handle the layout.

In a digital-first organisation like BuzzFeed, however, the roles are much more fluid. Writers are expected not just to write, but to add their own headlines, source their own images, promote their stories via social media and even interrogate website analytics to understand which stories are performing well and why.

And UsvsTh3m, the innovative new media venture set up by Trinity Media, is produced by a lean team of multi-skilled digital natives. “What we’ve done differently,” writes one of the project’s founders Martin Belam, “is assemble a team of five where everybody to a greater or lesser extent can write for the web, use Photoshop like a boss, and code.”

It’s easy to caricature the old way of doing things as inefficient, slow and typical of the pre-digital age. In his autobiography The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, the writer Bill Bryson recalls the booze-soaked life of a sub-editor at the Times, and the occasion when one colleague avoided redundancy in an efficiency drive by virtue of his mid-morning trip to the local bookies.

In the digital world, we talk endlessly about agility, collaboration and iteration. But the set up of a traditional newsroom evolved for good reason. The task of delivering a completely different product, to an unmovable deadline, every day, every week or every month is one that demands deep specialist expertise. And while a tech executive might live by the mantra that ‘done is better than perfect’, the judge in a libel case might take a slightly different view.

Regular readers of this column – hi mum – will know that I’m passionate about brands creating high quality content. And to produce content to a consistently high standard, the skills of an experienced editor are irreplaceable.

Even the best writers in the world need editors. They commission, cajole and curate, taking in copy and turning out stories. They manage fragile egos and fraught deadlines. They represent the reader, making sure there’s a sanity check in a world of always-on platforms and instant reaction.

And the client workshop? It wasn’t for a media business, of either the traditional or digital variety. It was a charity – one of the biggest charities in the UK, in fact, and an organisation that really understands the difference between content and great content.

Jon Davie is managing director at Zone. You can follow him on Twitter @JonDavie

Content Marketing Editors Branded Content

More from Content Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +