A Web editor develops the content or editorial plan of a Web site, working with a team that may include a creative director, a writer, a designer, and an information architect. Web editors at different types of companies have varying responsibilities. Someone at iVillage.com, for instance, deals with major amounts of content and updates it on a daily basis. An editor at an online magazine could be brought in to match the site’s particular style or to provide an original voice. But if you work for a Web developer that produces original content for different companies, your work will be more project-oriented. You will develop material for a range of clients, as well as ensure that the information is accurate and conveys the true voice and tone for the site. The editor’s work encompasses a broad spectrum of writing and can run the gamut from writing a short article or product description copy to creating a script. Copyediting and proofreading may also be part of an editor’s job. An editor in the Web world has a very different job than one in a traditional print position. The online world is one of interactivity, which may involve creating single-loop feedbacks, such as real-time polls, or developing community-oriented content-information that is taken from people responding to a site. While print media is geared toward the masses, interactive content relies on an understanding of the one-to-one nature of the Web. “In most traditional media, once you’ve written a piece, it’s done,” notes writer Amy Gahran. However, many online writing projects are never really finished, especially when it comes to Website content. “Expect to update, revise, expand, or tweak existing written materials not just occasionally, but continuously.” “Editing and project-management skills are helpful for any writer, but having a background as an editor or managing editor can prove especially lucrative. Many online publishing venues lack experienced editorial talent. Being an editor as well as a writer is likely to open more doors for you in online media than it would in print media,” observes Gahran.
As an editor, it’s important to familiarize yourself with HTML and a variety of page design programs like Dreamweaverª and Cyberstudioª. An editor should have an understanding of certain back-end technologies; for instance, if you are writing copy for an e-commerce site, it’s helpful to understand the functionality of how an online store works and how it operates before you actually write material for it. Gaining some HTML knowledge will help you understand the possibilities and limitations of online media much better than someone who only writes, and you can easily teach yourself basic HTML and basic Web design from a good book. Web editors require a combination of editorial common sense and good writing skills. They must also embrace the technology. “If someone is out to write his novel and wants to pick up some interesting work on the side, this is a harder road,” cautions one Web editor. “People who really have a curiosity about the medium and are jazzed by learning about it tend to flourish more.” Junior writing and proofreading positions exist for recent college grads, who can also enter the field in a support role to gain some experience. “We’re at the point now where we’re looking for people with Web experience,” says one senior editor, “but people who have had some copywriting or print work experience and who can demonstrate a penchant for the medium can earn a junior staff writing position.” Strong original writing will open the door, along with the ability to write on a variety of topics in different styles. There is a lot of work right now for editors, and it’s not too tough to break into the field.
A lot of people enter the field from a direct marketing background because that type of one-to-one interaction is the basis for online business. Web editors with strong conceptual skills can move up to associate and senior creative director positions. Others who want to leave the field can take their skills back into the print world to magazines, ad agencies, or any other arena in need of original writing.