Why you need an editor (and I do too)

Posted by IAB Australia On January 12, 2015

Editors get a bad rap. Just think of the editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour who is known as “nuclear Wintour” for her famously frosty demeanour. In The Devil Wears Prada, a film that is said to be inspired by Wintour, the editor of the fictional Runway magazine is nothing short of tyrannical. At one point she even demands that her young assistant get hold of a copy of an unpublished Harry Potter book for her children to read or she’ll no longer have a job.

But for all the famous editors – from British tabloid editor-turned-American talk show host Piers Morgan to the legendary founder of Rolling Stone Jann Wenner (who is still editor-in-chief 47 years later) – you could be forgiven for thinking editors are a dying breed. After all, six new WordPress blog posts are published every second of every day so anyone with a computer is just a couple of clicks away from publishing their work without having to answer to anyone at all.

And brands that are vying to be publishers and build their own “newsrooms” do not yet seem to understand how crucial the role of editor can be. For a start an editor – not a writer – is often the person who conceptualizes a story in the first place, who shapes the angle that will make it unique and decides on the appropriate format. The editor writes a brief for the writer that details the questions that the piece needs to answer and sets the tone and structure.

When a story is delivered an editor reads it not only with a view to whether the writer has answered the brief, but also to ensure it flows well and the style and tone is right for the publication or website where it will appear.

More than that, the editor is the guardian of the publication’s brand and its most intractable gatekeeper. They are responsible for ensuring that every story meets audience needs whether that’s determined via website traffic, engagement or magazine or newspaper sales. When I was editor of high-circulation titles including Sunday magazine and Good Weekend, more than 80% of the many dozens of ideas that came across my desk each week didn’t make it to print. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but being difficult was part of the job description.

At Storyation, the content marketing agency I co-founded, we use a publisher approach so that each story we create for a client is conceived by an editor. The ideas are based on our client’s brand values and business objectives as well as our knowledge of what will make a story interesting enough to be read and shared. When copy comes it is first reviewed by an editor – who may send it back to the writer with queries about the subject matter or suggestions on tone or structure – and then it is sent to a sub-editor or copy editor who eliminates factual and grammatical errors because even the best writers make mistakes.

We follow this process because I believe every writer – myself included – benefits from being edited. There’s no need for The Devil Wears Prada-style histrionics, but if you want to create content that is worthy of your brand and that stands out in an era of information overload then you’ll want to ensure that your company – or your agency – finds its own Anna Wintour.

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.