One of the overriding issues affecting the current writers’ market is the need for traditional newsrooms and media organizations to produce a profit. These organizations are now employing writers — many of whom come from a journalism background — to produce and execute non-editorial content in the form of branded posts and digital packages.
Journalists seeking jobs today may find more hits for “Content Producer,” “Digital Project Manager,” and “Social Media Strategist” than “Investigative Reporter” or “Associate Editor.” As mastheads come to reflect these monikers en masse, the qualifications once looked for in journalism positions will now be required of copywriters and marketers. Our #adviceforyoungjournalists? Expect to enter an industry that has a split focus between strategically crafted copywriting and hard hitting news briefs.
Jed Wexler is a former journalist and the founder of 818 Agency, a content strategy outfit based in New York City with an extension in Los Angeles. He finds that in-house marketing teams reap better copy from writers with journalism backgrounds and that writers on these teams stand to gain a newfound opportunity for upward mobility. “I think the next wave of high paid jobs in the digital realm are for writers who can write elegant, well-researched copy that is able to reach and convert customers,” he says.
Wexler also believes that the process of hiring journalists to create this branded content is a necessary asset to the production of real journalism. “I think newsrooms have slowly added this [advertising] agency element. I look at agency capability as a tool to get your journalistic content in front of the right people at the right time. Before, news organizations put out journalistic content on their two or three channels and just expected people to come. That doesn’t work as well anymore. You have to deliver the content to where people are hanging out,” he says, regarding the strategic placement and crafting of digital content across social channels.
Wexler advises journalists who may be eyeing a position that sounds more Mad Men and less Citizen Kane to understand that these career paths are part of the next wave of journalism. “These jobs are necessary because the content is fuel for the business. There are a lot of opportunities for journalists who understand how to produce digital content without losing the editorial integrity of the entity. I think it makes writing more interesting because you’re creating with a strategic advantage without being overbearing. Customers don’t want to be sold on your content overtly.”
If you’re looking to use your journalism skills, but want to find a job outside of the newsroom, the titles may not be familiar to you. We put together a quick list of titles that may help you navigate this new industry:
Digital Project Manager: Project managers in the digital realm are in charge of managing and organizing editorial initiatives on the website from beginning to end. Tasks may include sourcing freelance writers and/or managing an in-house team, setting deadlines, collaboration with developers and designers to create wireframes and landing pages for content, overseeing social media initiatives, and maintaining relationships with outside organizations who sponsor the digital editorial packages. Digital project managers bring many of the individual components of a media package to life online.
Content Producer: The role of a Content Producer is to write editorial content in volume for webpages. Content Producers are often tasked with crafting upwards of three to five short form posts per day (and sourcing accompanying photography) that can be easily shared via social media. This content is often created from source material in the form of press releases or information from other sites that is displayed as a link within the article. A journalism background can be the key component to creating quality work at the scale required for this role.
Social Media Strategist: Social Media Strategists are skilled at crafting microcopy for social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and creating relationships with online personalities and brands that will share the content in turn. Some of their responsibilities include sourcing photos, creating short form posts, managing and deciphering web analytics programs to track the performance of posts, and creating, managing, and executing social media editorial calendars. As content of all types needs a social presence for distribution, this job helps bring the important work a team does to life.
Brand Copywriter: These writers create editorial content and packages that are sponsored by outside businesses. Editorial packages are usually themed (i.e. a company sponsoring a slideshow called “The 10 Most Decorative Homes in the Midwest”), well researched, and presented with beautiful photography. Brand Copywriters get to experience a great cross-section of departments, as they usually work in conjunction with the marketing team and are supervised by a Digital Project Manager.
Community Manager: Community managers are similar to Social Media Strategists in that they create, manage, and share content across the social media platforms of an organization. A community manager responds to Facebook and Twitter comments, creates editorials to support community engagement, and strategizes online initiatives to increase followers and growth. Community managers also plan and support in-person events such as meet-ups in order to engage influencers and encourage the participation of fans both on and offline for the brand. As media companies look into expanding revenue through live events, community managers may become an even more prominent position.
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What is your take on the positions that have become more prominent in journalism? Do you believe that real journalists should venture into these respective fields? Have you had personal experience with a job hunt for a traditional role that led you to one of these career paths instead? Share your experience us in the comments!