Editor, Product Manage Thyself
I’m a rookie at product management. But I’m a pretty experienced journalist, and before that, I was a passable designer and coder. My active work with code ended in the early 2000's. It’s still hard to say why I left web development for the world of journalism. I think one reason is the development work, and the tools available to do that work, just weren’t capturing my attention or interests at the time.
Little did I realize that the tools available to coders, especially ones like me, who tried to be holistic about design and code, were about to get way better and way cooler to do stuff with. And that journalism was about to undergo a secular shift away from print to digital, though massively downsizing, trading dollars for dimes along the way. On the face of it, I made a pretty horrible mistake in trading careers. I should’ve buttoned down, learned the languages I needed, and built cool new stuff. But I’m not unhappy with my choices. Here’s why:
1. Content management and product management are converging. You see it in places like The Verge. In GDGT. In The New York Times’ Snowfall. This is the unavoidable reality of the transition to digital media. It’s no longer good enough to blurp a blob of text onto a screen and expect readers to find it. Whether it’s machine-readable metadata that subtly drives readers to engaging content, or intensely pretty graphics and CSS animations, readers are being trained to expect simple yet elegant complexity in their online experiences. Woe to the media company that is not scrambling to deliver both. Therefore:
2. Content editors need to also be product managers. It’s true, today’s editors are overworked and underpaid. And many thought they’d just be pushing copy around, or fixing clauses, or maybe telling a graphic designer how to lay out their page, not deciding how much parity each mobile client should have with the website, or extracting something interesting from a pool of data. Well, tough.
An editor or writer who gets to file her copy into the system and forget about is an editor who is being alienated, in the most Marxist possible way, from the fruits of their labor. That journalist has lost contact with his or her consumer. Editors need to help craft the way their content gets presented to their readers. They themselves don’t have to be designers…