So the co-founder and CEO of Babble.com (and co-founder of Nerve.com, incidentally), Rufus Griscom, has a few words about editors.
“The glass half-empty view is that editors are obsolescent – they are giant pandas in a receding bamboo forest. As the supply of editors outstrips the demand for them, the cost of the service of editing declines. New York is bursting at the seams with wildly talented editors who are under-employed, or about to be,” he wrote on his blog.
Well, Griscom says,
1) We have far better data with which to judge the success of writing than we used to, and this data is available to everyone. Traffic, engagement data, and social media success provide much clearer picture of the effectiveness of a piece of writing than the opinion of a single editor. Refining one’s writing style based on this feedback loop is the best editing process available. We’ve already learned quite a bit from this iterative process – we’ve learned that most readers prefer the raw, opinionated, sometimes emotional voice of a blog post — or an article written like a blog post – to the objective, painstakingly rendered linguistic object that is a finely edited article. The evidence suggests that a portion of what editors have done in the past – removing bias, encouraging a measured consistent tone – makes writing less engaging to most readers.
2) The length of an article or post has become relatively unimportant. Space is free, and it really doesn’t matter whether or not readers finish articles — we need users to engage with what they read, comment on it, and then continue to interact with the website in other ways. Therefore, the age old challenge of honing, trimming and sanding articles until they are the perfect size to slide into precisely shaped slots in newspapers and magazines is of diminishing value. The importance of the title and the lede – the first several sentences in a story – remains paramount, but if a writer chooses to prattle on for an extra page, and the reader finds something else on the site more interesting, the cost to the publication is low. The correct mentality is one of managing abundance, as people say, rather than scarcity.
3) Abundance – the long tail — is necessary to win online, and it is impossible to produce abundance with intensive editorial process. It’s prohibitively expensive. So it’s necessary to develop another skill: the ability to coach teams of people who create an abundance of content, and help teach them how to do three things: (1) read the data to figure out what works from a voice and style perspective, and (2) use the various levers of google trends, facebook, twitter, stumble, and so on to understand what readers are interested in on the one hand, and (3) push content out to the places where those readers are looking for it, packaged in a way that enables it to succeed in that environment.
To find out what’s in store for “editing” (and to get the skinny on new jobs!) read the rest of the post at Griscom’s blog.