“Content Development” is really just an all-encompassing title that includes content conception, creation, editing and publishing. But “Content Creator, Editor and Publisher” is just too long of a title for any business card, no?
Creating content for digital products and projects isn’t hard. Anyone with an internet connection and a blog platform can do it. But creating compelling, fascinating, entertaining, content that not only engages an audience out of the gate but also extends beyond your products or projects and keeps people coming back for more, well, that’s not so easy. And it’s a skill that has to constantly morph and shape itself to the current digital landscape. What worked on sites two years ago isn’t what’ll work two days from now. The Internet tells YOU what it wants, not the other way around.
When creating content for the Web or apps, you have to keep in mind the overall tone, sure, but also the length, virability, sociability, and the SEO value. It’s like juggling a collection of particularly cute and wily kittens.
Did I mention I have a degree in juggling?
I’ve been creating original content for the Web since before there were blogs, but my first professional foray into digital content was at OurHouse.com, a start-up that partnered with Ace Hardware during the dot com bubble of the aughts. I was originally responsible for general site advertising banners and newsletters touting products and sales, but quickly took on the coordination, creation and management of all food and cooking content. I wrote and edited product descriptions for over 800 cooking tools, reworking and integrating over 1500 recipes in the process. I produced the weekly cooking-centric newsletter campaigns as well as the website product and recipe content, creating and managing a popular food hub on an otherwise home repair product site.
While at iLeo in Chicago, I managed the collection, research and rewriting of the GoArmy.com website’s job descriptions. I conducted personal interviews with actual Army employees and soldiers, corralled that data and combined it with not one, not two, but three separate print data books that listed entirely different descriptions for each position. The goal was to simplify and streamline the descriptions while still making them compelling to potential enlistees. To this day, the descriptions that I organized and wrote are still in use on the GoArmy.com and AMEDD websites.
I continued this kind of digital copywriting and content producing at Digitas, which at the time was one of the only direct marketing advertising agencies that had branched out into the digital realm. We produced immersive digital marketing campaigns for numerous brands, large and small, including Best Buy and Allstate.
But it wasn’t until I landed at Skirt! Magazine that my particular set of digital skills started to be put to optimal use. Editing, producing and managing their initial Charleston edition was right up my alley. Whether it was taking the Quark Xpress-designed content out of print and converting it to work on the Web or optimizing high-res graphics and photos for digital, I was in my own personal brand of heaven from the minute I showed up the first day. When the magazine extended to five other city locations, the same processes had to be applied and the work quintupled, but it was still all kinds of awesome as far as I was concerned. A great brand, wonderful content, and a constantly changing digital product — what wasn’t to love?
All of that valuable print-to-web experience became core to my work at Hearst Digital Media in New York. Starting at House Beautiful magazine as the Senior Web Editor, my primary directive was to get the old site off of iVillage and onto their new proprietary CMS. With an entirely new design and content structure. And to do it in four months. No big deal. We did it. And we even gave it a second streamlined design update two months later. House Beautiful has always been known for its beautiful photography, which we made front and center, but we also reproduced the other magazine stories and features for the Web, turning the site into the design and decorating hub it was always meant to be.
Once I became Managing Editor for the Digital Brands, my focus had to shift from content development and asset management to overseeing the entire family of magazine sites from a combined editorial and technical perspective. But I still managed to take on the build of the Veranda magazine website as a side project, converting that high-quality content to a searchable, shareable digital product that immediately extended the audience and increased their site traffic by 223%. There’s something still so satisfying taking a traditional print brand and figuring out how to make it work in digital.
I’ve been working more on the product development and asset management side with the HGTV Photo Library and portal launch we completed last year, but have been delving back into the content development side in the last few months. We’ve been looking to streamline our photo products across the board and increase our visits and engagement, and we’re approaching it less from a product development level, concentrating more on content and time-to-market of updated photos and articles.
In the end, it’s still all about the content and how it performs. The more we nurture and tend it, the faster and higher it’ll grow.