The Role of a Content Editor Today

In this blog post, I consider how responsive design is changing the way content editors and media companies produce content for their consumers.

I also explore how content editors with and without resources can create compelling and dynamic content.

The Power of Responsive Design

Responsive design is placing greater demands on how the creators of digital content, and by extension media organisations, publish and display online content.

This emerging standard sees websites adapt to the device the user is browsing on, rather than the other way around. For example, a responsive image that fits across the width of a laptop or monitor screen won’t stretch beyond the dimensions of a smaller, mobile device.

Similarly, a responsive video will resize automatically to suit the dimensions of a device in question. Although developers have to invest more time and money to create a responsive website, it means content editors will ultimately spend less time maintaining and updating multiple versions of the same website.

The producers of digital media should consider content in terms of systems, rather than in terms of web pages. Today, it’s not enough to simply create a web page that looks good in Chrome/Internet Explore/Firefox/Safari. The content management system and website must be capable of displaying the content responsively across a range of devices.

Content editors need to consider everything from mobiles with slow internet access to large screen desktops with a fibre connection.

This means the size of those fancy, high-resolution images needs to be kept as small as possible and the editor may even have to adjust the image dimensions or change the HTML classes appropriately. Even then, the content will be manipulated and changed beyond the author’s original intentions.

Those curious about responsive design, can investigate how the following three websites look on a browser, tablet and PC: The Boston Globe, Barackobama.com and Channel 4 News. Flipboard is also a good example of how digital news stories are manipulated.

This is one the most popular social media apps available for Android and iOS. It effectively turns a person’s media feeds alongside their favourite current affairs and entertainment websites into a magazine.

It makes reading on a tablet or smartphone a far more pleasing experience than reading on a desktop. It personalises content for the reader based on the user’s preferences and it changes on this content is displayed depending the device you are using. In other words, a BBC news story on Flipboard doesn’t look the same as it does BBC.co.uk (although the content itself is unchanged).

Content editors who use CMS packages like WordPress or Joomla! can buy premium responsive themes here and here. Plugins like this one also make it easier for content editors to embed responsive iframes (read videos, slides, pictures etc) into their websites.

Content is Personal

Content was traditionally delivered by several large media companies to a mass audience. Today, content is created and delivered by the many to a mass audience. And unlike ten or twenty years ago, this content is shared, remix, edited and mashed up by and for those who create and consume it.

The primary tool for the delivery of this content is social media. Platforms like Facebook facilitate the curation of personalised news feeds filled with specific, personal and relevant content.

They also provide a platform for people to tell their stories and even to engage in forms of citizen journalism. Alexis C. Madrigal writes in the Atlantic about how Facebook regards itself as an “empty vessel” that users fill with their content.

Facebook is not unique. Twitter LinkedIn, and many other well-known sites and the various other social media sites curate different forms of this empty vessel.

The empty vessel has changed how media professionals engage people they normally produce content about or for. For example, journalists use these “vessels” to make contact with sources across the world and verify in real-time how an event is unfolding.

They can also use social media to active engage with their readers and sources. This process is best described by Irish journalist Markham Nolan of Storyful.

He regularly uses Twitter to separate fact from fiction and communicate with sources in real-time around the world. [iframe id=”http://embed.ted.com/talks/markham_nolan_how_to_separate_fact_and_fiction_online.html”]

Free or Fee to Use

Today, information is a currency that is exchanged through shares, likes, clicks and website traffic.

Although this information is freely available, it’s not always free to use or republish. For example, a content editor who copies and pastes a Google image into their website is probably breaching the photographer’s copyright. This may apply even if the content editor links to or references the image in question.

A good content editor will know how to sift through the wealth of online content and find information they can legally use.

They will also know how to use their own (or in-house) resources to generate fresh content. And they will know where to go for help.

Content editors with resources can buy a copyright to a particular article or image and use this in their work too and there are a number of websites that sell premium images:

Some content editors (e.g. bloggers) face the challenge of having generate original content with fewer resources. That’s not to say they can’t use any information online. If they like an article or image they can always contact the website in question and ask about licensing. They can search other blogs and write commentary of topical issues within their area of interest.

They can also add a personal slant to their writings, thereby making it unique. Content editors with fewer resources can also use Creative Commons to search for free to use content and even to set up their own licenses. And it’s a good idea for these types of editors to take part in various discussion forums on platforms like LinkedIn.

There, they can generate ideas, ask for feedback and to find out further information about a post they are writing.

What are your thoughts on responsive design and content editing on a budget? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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