The nature of editorial is to evolve

processAs new media marketers, we know what our clients should be doing, what spaces they should be playing in; we have a whole laundry list of items we’d like them to implement. But too often, we don’t apply the same standards and strategies to our own online spaces and digital publishing faces.

Maybe it’s lack of dedicated resources, maybe it’s tightened budgets. Whatever the reason, we too must hold ourselves accountable to our digital content strategy.

When I started as Editor at the Lab a year ago, we moved quickly to make lots of progress on our online content. Within weeks we had redesigned our newsletter and blog, and begun publishing with greater attention to quality and regularity. A year later, it’s time to raise the bar again, dust out the cobwebs and keep evolving. It would be easy to say, sigh, can’t we just get it right? Set it and forget it? But the very nature of digital publishing and online editorial is determined by the speed with which changes are taking place.

The technology is changing quickly, and so too are our behaviors. For example, for the past two years the way I’ve gotten my daily news at work is to open my menu bookmarks in a row of tabs, and click through each page on the stories that interest me. I still do this, but I’ve noticed a new habit: Checking our Twitter feeds for the articles bubbled up by the community; I’m finding they are often far more revealing and meaningful to me than the stories Wired or Yahoo News chooses to put on its front page (a major reason I haven’t set the auto-follow feature on the Lab’s Twitter feed–I want to keep that conversation relevant to us, because this is forming part of how we are staying informed on new media topics). The Twitter era is just one example of how fast our habits and media consumption habits are changing our editorial and content strategies.

So what’s an editor to do? Moreover, what’s an editor to do on a shoestring in a difficult economy? And how can we learn from our own wheels of progress, and help our clients do the same?

Here’s my Problematik as they say in German:

-We’ve got an outdated portal that needs more than just a good shine, she needs to be rebuilt, and she needs to become interactive — but not because we want to force that “social behavior” on anyone, god forbid, but because genuinely our Lab members want a way to connect across agencies and platforms around content they are pulling from.

-We’ve got a newsletter that is loved by many, and read regularly by few, despite thoughtful, timely content, updating to a new version of WordPress and some amateur SEO  sleuthing.

-A blog that is easy to update and malleable, but competes with our monthly newsletter for eyeballs

-Encouraging the team to publish regularly and maintain that same spirit of quality content month after month, year after year

-Publications that are living in too many places from our portal to our blog, and some of which have to remain in secure walled garden environments

-Challenges getting our content to the people who want it most

Sound familiar?

If we were offering advice to our clients, we would say:

-Have you asked your readers and audience what interests them? How can you incentivize your audience to offer their feedback? People want to contribute, but they need to be reached out to

-Are there guest writers or Have you identified key influencers who can be evangelizers of your content?

You really need to rethink your online portal and consider adding social elements (but please, don’t reinvent the wheel, and no it’s not enough to just have a presence on Facebook, but speaking of, when was the last time you tended to your Facebook page?)

-How can you channel content to the places where your audience is already playing?

Well, it’s easier said than done. Or else all of our Websites would be perfect all of the time. And HA! that’s not the case. Nonetheless, over the next few weeks we’ll be conducting user studies to help inform the development of a new website and content sharing library for (our first in four years, since we were established), we’ll reach out to some of you to find out how you use our online resources and what we need to include on the next iteration of our portal. We’ll also try to get clear about who our primary audience is as we create user profiles and scenarios. So don’t be surprised if you hear from us, and hopefully you’ll let us know what you think. We’ve posted a quick questionnaire for those who are willing to share their impressions with us. You can take the five minute survey here.

By the end of summer (ahem, maybe early fall) we’ll have a new site in place which will aggregate our content more seamlessly, and offer ways to connect around case studies, vendors, and platforms. So that we can keep our agencies and clients ahead of the curve. So stay tuned.