November 24, 2006

In praise of the Content Editor

303586277_e8eecf61fe_o_1 Teri McSherry leaves Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) today after working as a Content Editor and then Content Team Leader there. I am going to miss our daily Marks and Sparks sandwiches in the Domestos-fuelled odours of the Dowanside kitchen of last year, and this year’s more infrequent but superior O’Brien’s sandwiches with crumb catcher on the refrigerated air conditioned 8th floor of Optima Building.

Teri led a merry band of Content Editors in the endeavour of making webpages more readable, more slick and undeniably more pastel coloured. She had since been joined by two more Content Team Leaders (don’t ask me, the job titles change every week), who will continue to carry the tradition of tweaking, formatting, compressing and placing material across the plethora of governmental and educational websites Scotland seems to do such a good job at pumping out.

But the Content Editor is the forgotten element in many a website. We understand the need for web geeks, we understand that we need quality writers of content, but rarely does the ‘outside world’ understand the key role of a good content editor.

I believe that role might be on the brink of change from one of placing text, creating links, building more pages and deleting the boring ones without telling the Development Officers who wrote them ;-) Far from being the ones who get in the way of the flowing text of civil servants, inspectors, development officers and classroom teachers (“What do you mean people can’t read 10 pages of prose?”), Content Editors are the ones who save them from the embarrassment of poor spelling, impossibly weird syntax and comma splice. But in the very near future the Content Editor’s role might just start take on more characteristics of their slightly grimier cousins, the Newspaper Subeditor.

The comparison came to me while reading MediaGuardian this week. Increasingly, Subeditors, who have done much the same job as Content Editors but in the world of the press, are being asked to recreate the content into multiple platforms: one version for the print edition, one for the website, another for the mobile audience, yet another for the video and podcast versions.

In LTS I am looking at how the social web – and its increasingly common mobile delivery systems – can help feed the monster. We might see Content Editors soon producing content for the traditional web service, paper marketing, email bulletin and RSS excerpts, cutting podcasts and video renditions of the page, producing mobile versions of their content and deciding what content needs pushed through to users at different times of the day (5 minute summary of education news at drive time in podcast, morning video summary of what’s new on the site that week, the minute-by-minute, daily and weekly digests from the site’s RSS feeds?)

So while Teri may be moving to the ever-changing excitement of London, it’s maybe nothing compared to the potential speed of change in the job role she’s leaving behind. It's a shame she's not going to be around to help us enter this new world.

Awra best, Teri!

  • Top Teri's Leaving Film: One;
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Nice one, Ewan!

Top Teri's Leaving Song Four?

I really enjoyed your blog entry and found it very heart warming! It was great that you were able to capture the huge contribution that Teri has made to LTS, but also to explain to others what the role of the Content Editor is. You've really hit the nail on the head about how our team can turn around seemingly quite dull stuff and make it look interesting and exciting.
Since being part of the content team and writing summaries and news items, I now fully appreciate the skill of tabloid subeditors!
I often imagine how they must have a secret dictionary of tabloid headline terms
Eg guy = thug, ned, yob, gangster, vandal, loonie, pervert etc
and they pick the one with the correct number of characters to fit in a headline.
One of the most obscure billboard headlines I ever saw was about the 'parly gravy train'.
Get's you thinking doesn't it?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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