Why Web Managers Need To Get On The Road

by Gerry McGovern

The better the web manager the more time they will spend out of the office; the more time they will spend in front of the reader.

David Shaw is the editor of the Scottish Enterprise website, and I spent some time with David and his team a couple of months ago. In a previous career, David was the editor of a Scottish fishing industry magazine.

When David was the editor of the fishing magazine he spent four days on the road. He was out there constantly talking to fisherman, finding out what they really cared about. He was developing story leads and carrying out interviews. He was establishing relationships with key people who would feed him breaking news.

As a result of David's constant interaction with the fishing industry he was able to develop a gut instinct understanding of what they wanted. That allowed him to immediately spot a good story and to instantly kill a bad one, making the magazine very successful.

This is such a crucial skill for an editor to have. Otherwise, you'll spend far too much time figuring out what should and shouldn't get published. Worse, you're likely to be publishing a lot of the wrong stuff because you don't really know what your readers really need.

I asked David how many days a week he spent on the road as editor of the Scottish Enterprise website. Practically none was his reply. It didn't surprise me. Rarely do I find web managers who spend significant time with their readers. It must be something to do with the view that the Web is a technology, and that therefore we don't need to understand people quite as much.

However, the opposite is true. To create a technology that is truly useful to people requires a tremendous understanding of human nature. And, anyway, the Web is not about technology. It's about content and it is people that read content.

Every editor I have ever known has spent a lot of time with people. The Web may be new but that doesn't mean we should forget fundamental lessons. The core issues are still the same:

How do we get the right content to the right person at the right time at the right cost?

It's very easy for content creation to become insular and organization-centric. It's very easy to create a stream of content that is totally unrelated to the needs of your reader. I constantly come across organizations that produce vast quantities of content that really is of little or no value.

The primary reason all this sort of counter-productive activity occurs is because there is nobody there to shout stop. That's because in many organizations there isn't anybody who can differentiate between killer content and filler content.

If you're looking for one of the most exciting jobs of the knowledge economy then the web editor is unquestionably one of them. Content is the fuel the knowledge economy runs on, but content is not king. It is the reader who is king, and content only has value when your reader thinks it has value. Get to know your reader and you will have value.


For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern.

Posted on: May 2, 2005 | No comments

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