Amy Moczynski / Digital Marketing / August 15th, 2012

Hey Marketers, You’re Journalists, Too

The mantra “Content is king” has been beaten into every marketer’s head, but how many of you can say your content’s accuracy is what you hold dear? Are you editing it with a fine-tooth comb? Are you fact checking religiously? Are you trying to make the Web a better place?

I graduated from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications where the importance of factual and grammatical accuracy was stressed on a daily basis. In our Reporting class, if you misspelled a person’s name or improperly capitalized a proper noun, your grade was slashed 50 points for a fact error. Smart students learned to double and triple check their stories.

In addition to Reporting, journalism students take Newspaper Editing. Dr. Ronald Rodgers, associate professor at the journalism college, teaches the editing course. I spoke with him about how the push to online journalism has affected how people write.

Two of the big ideas Dr. Rodgers stressed were the concepts of self-editing and network journalism. In an effort to cover both concepts, I’m splitting this post into two parts. Part one will cover network journalism and how it’s affecting the way people write online. The second part will explore self-editing and ways marketers can improve their editing skills.

While you may not consider yourself a journalist or an editor, as a marketer, you should follow basic journalistic tenets that will help make the Web a better place.

Network Journalism: What it is and How it Affects You

In recent years, news outlets have given more priority to publishing content online as opposed to just the traditional print medium. This not only allows readers to gather information quickly, but it also fosters a dialogue between the publication and its readers, creating what’s known as network journalism.

With network journalism, the audience isn’t just reading your content; they are participating and molding it. In addition to comment sections and online forums, publications are using posts and trends from social media to tell a story. Tools like Storify are an example of how new outlets can integrate reader commentary from social media to shape their stories.

In addition to fostering an open dialogue, network journalism incorporates the concept of post moderation. Readers leave comments to contribute their thoughts or opinions (assuming they aren’t just spamming a site in the hopes of a link back to their website) and provide further information they feel might benefit other readers. Post moderation also keeps writers on their toes because the audience can now police the stories.

“They will let you know that they don’t think something’s accurate,” Dr. Rodgers said.

Network journalism applies not only to traditional news outlets, but also to anyone publishing content online. Whether you are writing on your blog, pitching guest posts to other sources or creating content for your company’s website, people will read and respond to what you write. Dr. Rodgers said the audience is smarter and making valid comments, forcing marketers and writers to get it right the first time.

For marketers, your audience can be blog readers, other marketers, your clients or your bosses. These are not the people you want spotting your errors. Post moderation and network journalism force marketers to make accuracy a priority. Another component of accuracy is the ability to self-edit. Being able to correctly edit everything you write can help prevent you from making careless errors.

The second part of this post will cover self-editing and why it’s so important for any marketer to master. If you are writing anything that will be published online, read on to learn more about why it’s vital you sharpen your editing skills. Image from Mike Licht