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An Editor-in-Chief’s Responsibilities in the Digital Age
30th July 2015 • Editor-in-Chief • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:27:11

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Jerod Morris, VP of Rainmaker.FM, stops by Editor-in-Chief to discuss the responsibilities of an Editor-in-Chief in today s on-demand digital content world.

Does the current role of an Editor-in-Chief in the digital space differ from the traditional definition of an Editor-in-Chief?

In this 27-minute episode, Jerod Morris and I discuss:

  • The contemporary content marketing environment
  • How to make a significant contribution to your industry
  • Why connection is king
  • The critical importance of editorial standards in the digital age
  • The similarities between the Editor-in-Chief mindset and The Showrunner mindset
  • The difference between a podcast and a show
  • Common misconceptions about sustainability and profitability
  • One single action you can take to make a meaningful impact right now

Listen to Editor-in-Chief below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

An Editor-in-Chief s Responsibilities in the Digital Age

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Stefanie Flaxman: Really, you think we should do that?

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Stefanie Flaxman: No introductions.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back, everybody, to Editor-in-Chief. I’m your host, Stefanie Flaxman. Oh, well I guess we shouldn’t go that obvious.

Stefanie Flaxman: My, Stefanie, how your voice has changed. You are hijacking my show, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: That’d be a little jarring to the audience.

Stefanie Flaxman: To correct the record, I am Stefanie Flaxman, and you’re listening to Editor-in-Chief, the weekly audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing, updated for marketing in the digital age to help you become the editor-in-chief of your own digital business.

The cat’s been let out of the bag. I have a very special guest on the line with me today. He is the co-host of one of the biggest content marketing podcasts in the world, The Lede. He’s also the co-host of The Showrunner podcast and the co-creator of The Showrunner Podcasting Course. It is Jerod Morris. Jerod, thank you for joining me.

Jerod Morris: Thank you, Stefanie. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m glad that you and I get a chance to talk. I don’t know if it’s a cool thing or not, but one thing about our positions is, now that we’re on opposite sides — you’re working with Copyblogger more, I’m working with Rainmaker more — is we don’t get to talk to each other as much. We can just schedule each other on each other’s podcasts, and then it’s like we can talk for 45 minutes to an hour, and it’s part of work. That’s kind of cool, and we can catch up.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I like it. I know, because we used to have weekly chats. We used to have lots of brainstorming sessions that way. Those were not recorded. Now we can record them.

Jerod Morris: We did talk about recording them.

Stefanie Flaxman: We talked more about recording them than actually recording them.

Jerod Morris: I know, but someday, that may still happen. The live Google Hangout with you, me, and Demian. I don’t know if the world will ever be ready, but it may happen.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I don’t know. One day it might click into place. We talked about that live Google Hangout podcast, morph, mush of different ideas. This is working for now. I get you here on my show, and that makes me happy.

I have some questions for you. That was actually a really good little bit of background information, because we used to work in editorial together on the Copyblogger side of things in the Copyblogger Media world.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

The Contemporary Content Marketing Environment

Stefanie Flaxman: I know you’ve been listening to Editor-in-Chief, so I have sort of this evolved definition of an Editor-in-Chief in today’s content environment. I wanted to get your take, since you work with a lot of different types of digital media, both text and audio, on what you think it means to be an Editor-in-Chief in today’s on-demand digital content world.

Jerod Morris: I think in so many ways, you personify to me what an Editor-in-Chief is and should be, both with what you did before you joined Copyblogger and with what you’re doing now. You’ve seen both sides of it. You’ve run your own show, in a sense, with Revision Fairy, and run your own online business and created and crafted a content strategy around that, and crafted both the themes of the content and the standards of the content and then adhered to them. You were the single person doing that.

How to Make a Significant Contribution to Your Industry

Jerod Morris: I think you’ve applied those skills now to what we’re doing at Copyblogger and taking the larger, over-arching content themes that we’re going for both for Copyblogger and for Rainmaker — because obviously Copyblogger has to incorporate what we’re doing with the Rainmaker Platform — again, making sure that with each piece of content that goes out that those themes are being represented, and that a story is being told, and that an audience is being taken on a journey. At the same time, you re making sure that standards are kept in check, because that’s something that can slide so easily.

To me, that’s really what it is. That person who is almost a conduit between the producer and the audience, and making sure that the themes and the stories and the ideas that are supposed to be distilled to the audience are done in a systematic way, a way that’s understandable, and a way that adheres to the proper standards so that the overall reputation of the site stays intact. To me, that’s what it means. Does that come close to fitting what your definition is?

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, and I really like that, too, because we’re both kind of going in the direction of — I say this a lot on Editor-in-Chief — this really intentional, focused content creation. We’re past the point of, Hey, it would be a good idea to create content for a business. There might be some good results there.

We’re past exploring that, and we’re now in a phase where what you produce is your body of work. It represents you. It represents your business. It represents the contribution you want to make to your industry. That’s what really having that Editor-in-Chief mindset is to me, which you talked about in your definition, too. There’s just a lot of responsibilities and ownership that comes along with creating digital content now. It’s not just “I’m going to throw things out there and see what happens.”

Why Connection Is King

Jerod Morris: Which is also why the whole concept of content is king — I gave a presentation on this a couple weeks ago in Dallas — is really dead. I don’t know if it was ever as accurate as it was portrayed to be, because it’s really connection is king. It’s what the content can lead to. It’s like you said, we’re long past the days of, Oh, let’s just put up content. Any content. Maybe it’ll get in the search engines. Maybe back in the old days when there wasn’t that much content you could do that, but now it’s about connection. That’s the only way to break through the noise.

I think it’s really whoever the Editor-in-Chief is. Whoever has that role for a site, for a publication, is really in charge of making sure that the content strategy then creates the connection with the audience that it’s supposed to. You’re that person who’s always got to understand the heartbeat of what’s going on and make sure that that’s actually happening.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love connection is king, because your role, your job, is to get to know your audience and then serve that audience through the skillset that you have and what you have to offer. It s a crafted experience for a certain audience. That could transcend tons of different industries and topics. It’s writing. It s audio. It s anyone who’s creating a content experience. People have enough content to consume, but when you’re involved in a content experience, nothing else matters. You’re drawn into that reader.

I talked about that recently on an episode where I gave a little limited definition of the difference between weak writing and strong writing. Think about when you read something that is completely captivating. You’re not focused on what time it is, anything else. Weak writing is sort of just, there are words on a page. You could be distracted. You want to click off. It’s so easy to achieve that with writing. That’s not the point. It’s time to move beyond that, and when you become an editor, you’re not just putting out words that people can click away on, you’re creating an experience that is all-encompassing.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

The Critical Importance of Editorial Standards in the Digital Age

Stefanie Flaxman: I was actually thinking — we haven’t talked about this before — but the definition of editorial I think is very confusing for a lot of people. The word does have different meanings. Editor-in-Chief, using that first as an example, is more of a traditional journalism term. There are connotations with that, but obviously, things have evolved into a new environment. I’m putting it within the realm of digital business. Digital businesses are so built upon content now, or any business, for that matter.

Jerod Morris: One of the reasons I really like the term Editor-in-Chief — and you hit on it — is that it kind of hearkens back to journalism and maybe even an older age. To me, what it really suggests is standards: standards of journalism, integrity of reporting.

Obviously, with what we’re doing at Copyblogger, we’re not going out and reporting on new stories. I still think that having that person who’s the Editor-in-Chief, as an audience member, it gives you this confidence in the publication, saying, Okay, there’s this person at the end of the line, this Editor-in-Chief, that is in charge of making sure that everything here is top-notch: not just in terms of content, but in terms of accuracy, in terms of standards. It’s almost like the stamp of approval on content that is really important.

That’s the other thing: in this day and age of the Internet — and it’s been like this since the beginning — trust is so difficult both to feel and to earn. It can be eroded so quickly. As an audience member, you’re looking for sources of content you can trust. That can be a real differentiator for a content creator. Having a person who’s an Editor-in-Chief, or even if there’s not a person, having that mindset that you talk about a lot, it’s such a great way to both explicitly and implicitly give the audience confidence that they can trust what you’re doing.

I think that’s so important. The term, I think, has that imbued in it, from the old-school meaning of the term. I love how you’re taking it and applying it to new-school technologies and new-school trends and ways of content being produced online.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love that. Thank you. It is about standards. When there are standards, your audience is going to trust you more, exactly like you said. That’s the definition, and when I was talking about editorial, it is that editorial excellence, these standards for publishing, publishing standards.

I think people get confused, because an editorial can mean an opinion piece in a newspaper. I think people get confused: Is this journalism? Is this a news story? Is this editorial? I think it can just be a confusing term for people. Next week, I’m going to go more into the anatomy of an Editor-in-Chief and editorial terms and sort of break down what different things mean. I think that could be interesting.

Jerod Morris: That will be interesting.

The Similarities between the Editor-in-Chief Mindset and the Showrunner Mindset

Stefanie Flaxman: Thank you. There are actually a lot of similarities between my Editor-in-Chief mindset and what you talk about over on The Showrunner and The Showrunner Podcasting Course — the pilot launch, that was several months ago now when you launched that.

Jerod Morris: It was. It seems like it was last week, but you’re right.

Stefanie Flaxman: I know. I was like, April? That was not last week. I really felt like it. We talk about very similar things, and I would even call a Showrunner an under the umbrella of Editor-in-Chief.

Jerod Morris: I agree. I think there are a lot of similarities between the two. I think with both of them, both of them are bigger ideas that I think people can really sink their teeth into, and it’s almost like a big comfortable coat that you can wear, in a sense. That’s what we wanted The Showrunner to be.

We knew we were going to do a podcast that was about podcasting. There’s a lot of podcasts about podcasting out there. It s just like when you’re an Editor-in-Chief, you’re not just putting out tomorrow’s blog post, and then we’re going to put out a blog post the next day. It’s not blog post after blog post. It s a series of content made to take people on a journey, to make people feel like a hero and help them achieve goals and overcome obstacles. It’s exciting. You start to feel like movie trailers want you to feel when you start thinking about it, right?

The Difference between a Podcast and a Show

Jerod Morris: You could look at it either way. It’s all in the perception. When we decided to call the show Showrunner, and to really start to use show instead of podcast, Showrunner instead of podcaster, it was really to signal to people, hey, you’re not just creating audio episode after audio episode after audio episode. You’re creating a show that is part of a larger content marketing mix that is taking your audience on a remarkable journey, that at the same time, can take you on a remarkable journey, because it can help you build your business.

You’re not a podcaster, you’re a Showrunner. Just like I love the connotations of Editor-in-Chief. And so many people like me — growing up, I wanted to be in journalism. You would look at the mastheads of publications that you respected and you would see Editor in Chief up there at the top, and it was something to aspire to.

The term Showrunner really came from television. You think of guys like Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad and Matt Weiner of Mad Men, two Showrunners I really respect, because I really love their shows. It’s something to aspire to. If you could be an audio version of that I think about how I felt watching Breaking Bad and binge watching that and just dying to listen to the next episode. If you could create that kind of remarkable experience in an audio sense with your show, man, how great would that be?

There are obviously some differences when you get into the specifics of what we’re talking about with Editor-in-Chief and Showrunner, but I think when we talk about just being that person who’s truly in charge, who truly has the responsibility for creating a remarkable audience experience, whether it’s text or audio or whatever it is, both those terms are so empowering.

What I’m finding with the Showrunner experience is there are people I think that were waiting for a term like this. An idea, more than the term — the idea to unleash themselves. We’re seeing so many people who didn’t have shows that have started, and you see their confidence skyrocketing, and it’s changing their businesses. It’s so great to see, because there’s an empowerment now, where they’re not like, All right, I’m sitting, talking into a microphone, and no one’s here listening. What am I doing? It’s like, I’m creating a show. I’m doing this great big thing. I love seeing that. I think both of the ideas really encompass that.

The short answer to your question is yes, I think...