Internet Content Development
May 24, 2000
Thinking about breaking into the dot-com world but not quite sure where you fit in? Writer, editor, Internet content producer, and consultant Brenda Kienan not only gave May meeting attendees advice on "making the leap to online," she also provided an extensive overview of the role editors play in this ever-expanding arena.
Kienan, a BAEF member, is a principal of Tauber Kienan Associates, which provides business, technical, and content solutions for e-commerce and online publishing. Co-author of 11 books, she teaches content development courses at San Jose State University and San Francisco State University and speaks widely on Internet topics.
If you want to work for a Web site, she advised, your first assignment is to edit your title. If you write, call yourself a "content producer"; if you copyedit, you're now a "content editor." In other words, it's all about content. In fact, according to the 1999 Forrester survey of 8,600 Web-enabled households, high-quality content is the highest factor driving repeat visitors to a site.
However, Kienan, who works with companies to focus and execute their online content strategies, has found that people in the dot-com world generally don't understand what editors do. If anything, content-minded folk get blamed for causing an "editorial bottleneck" when a site is about to launch. "Editors are not well valued on the Internet even though [Web companies] need what we have," Kienan said.
What do they need? And what do we have?
A successful Web site needs, quite frankly, strong editorial. Successful content conveys a clear message to a well-targeted audience; assures readability and usability; creates and maintains credibility; establishes and fulfills branding; encourages smooth navigation; and avoids confusion and desertion.
Clarity, readability, credibility: these issues are second nature to editors. Editors are used to thinking about the audience and maintaining a consistent tone. They understand the concept of grabbing the reader's attention immediately and providing a payoff not too much later. An editor can make sure a message is true and ensure that it remains true throughout a site.
It's clear that editors' skills are needed on the Internet. The question is, how do you make the transition from print media? Kienan advises playing on what you already have: a command of the language, an eye for detail. Also, follow your interests; there are Web sites on just about everything. It's also a good idea to augment your skills: learn HTML and online editing basics and become familiar with graphics software.
Kienan also recommends reading up on the trends, especially using online resources. And it's a good idea to take an in-house job to get your feet wet. Remember, it's the Net. It's O.K. to keep a job only six months.
You'll also want to reposition your resume. First and foremost, use the lingo. "Edited manuscript" becomes "Edited content." "Wrote and edited copy" becomes "Produced content." Kienan also recommends de-emphasizing dates; staying too long at a job is a detriment. Place a bulleted list of your technical skills at the top of the page. List special training. Drop names. To really wow potential Web clients, do up your resume in HTML and link it to your samples.