A day in the life of a... News Editor
Published: 08 Jul 2013 By Chris Lake
Jimmy Coultas is News Editor at Skiddle, the ticket sales company based in Preston.
Here he explains what he does in a typical day in the office.
Please describe your job! What does a News Editor do?
I’m responsible for the content on Skiddle.com’s news section. I need to make sure everything we’re focusing on is mentioned to the right levels on the site, so everything from festival line-ups, interviews with the important people behind and starring at events, music releases and stories plus all the other type of news articles that soak up visitors from Google including guides to restaurants, hotels and even events such as wrestling tournaments.
We’ve got a wide variety of things that we cover at Skiddle and I’m always mindful of maintaining that balance so nothing overly outweighs anything else. It makes life a bit more interesting as well, going from writing eulogies about techno raves to wrestler obituaries in the space of an hour.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
It’s a fairly unique structure. I'm ultimately responsible to the directors, however 'news' sits within the remit of marketing’s consumer retention and acquisition strategy, which includes subtly delivering elements of the company’s seasonal marketing messages to our audience. Plus I have to ensure the account managers get the coverage they've promised clients through deals, so there's an almost constantly shifting sideways and vertical relationship. I like that fluidity.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Obviously the vast majority of the content on the website is geared around words, so being able to write is the most important skill. There’s the usual suspects as well like managing your time, balancing the workload of myself, the internal news team and an army of contributors, being resourceful and so on.
On top of that there’s a classical journalistic pique that’s important as well. Editing Skiddle’s news isn’t quite Woodward and Bernstein levels, however there’s a lot of music and events websites out there and our content is what marks us out from others. So having a minor streak of that Fleet Street ruthlessness helps. We’re yet to stretch to phone taps though, worry not.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Well I’ll start checking my emails pretty much when I get up, and then there might be a bit more of that on the train in. I'd say at least half the content we use is delivered to us from outside parties, be them contributors or PR companies keeping us informed. I need to work out what to use from that and which members of the team will do what, and how that sits in terms of the business’ overarching goals. So it’s a mixture of reacting and planning.
I usually get about 200 pitches a day so I need to sift through them to find first the ones to get up immediately, and then the ones to sort coverage out for in the future. All this then gets delegated alongside the stories I’ve already decided we are going to run with and we then create the content. The reality isn’t quite as linear as that. All of these processes tend to happen at once.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
It’s certainly a welcome aspect being responsible for steering the tone of the brand, especially as I need to work within the confines of what the readership wants. I’ve had editorial roles in the past however nothing as big as a million strong audience a month, I’m really enjoying the challenges that brings!
I’m also writing about the concept of fun; everything on our site is something someone indulges in for enjoyment. What’s not to love about that? Although I’m going to contradict myself here when I answer the latter question; it’s often pretty depressing writing about sun kissed beaches when it’s pouring down in Lancashire.
Perhaps one of the best things about working at a brand such as Skiddle is we’re growing and that’s exciting. We’ve just announced a strategic partnership with Mixmag, which is one of the most well respected publications in our sphere, plus we’ve just set live the most advanced festival search out there called the Festival Finder - so there’s loads going on and in turn it’s all driving more demands for editorial, that’s a good problem to have!
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Well ultimately Skiddle is a business that revolves around tickets sales, so the content is a means of doing that, I’ve got to be focused on that at all times. That said, we need to ensure we’re a resource for the music enthusiast, a destination for people to find something to do on a weekend, and a guide by which people kind of plan their social lives with, to a certain degree. We need to reflect that in our editorial, which is why we try and encompass as much information as possible, even if it isn’t around our ticket selling.
We want people to come to Skiddle because they trust us, and building that bond is the most important thing I feel rather than selling to them every time. The more people that end up on the site the more people will buy tickets, even if they’re not doing it all the time. That’s my main focus, and I think the people who read Skiddle respect that, although there’s always stuff for sale, there’s plenty of information there as well even if that particular event isn’t of interest.
In terms of measuring it, we have an endless amount of statistics, algorithms and magic potions which we analyse. We have to do some dark stuff to make weekends matter for everyone else! If the magic doesn’t work, I’d have questions to answer, fortunately, we’ve got a good formula that’s delivering results.
There’s reactive tasks, such as utilising news to assist with search marketing, there’s the stuff we need to be proactive about, such as complementing the marketing campaigns and the seasonal calendar, there’s answering as to why we chose to focus on one event over another, however ultimately, KPIs are focused around the average value of the news pages in converting visitors to ticket sales and the proportion of traffic the news pages bring to the site versus overall traffic volumes.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Being a tech lead business, Skiddle has developed all the software required to manage and review the news operation. Really though, a laptop and a smart phone is pretty much all you need now. Although neither help me out with the massive coffee and tea runs in the office sadly.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I’ve basically been writing about music for years. I used to write epic essays for shoddy mixtapes I made when I was a teenager for my mates, which progressed to a really ropey phase of writing raps. Thankfully none of those lyrics seem to have survived. I hope.
When I went to University I got involved in my student newspaper and later quite heavily in the local dance music scene, and I started writing about that. PR became a natural progression and as I was immersed in the internet all throughout my education, and most of my free time when looking for music, I always fared a lot better with online media than the other forms.
In a post-Google Panda and Penguin world, content has once again become king. Content creation has become a central role in the way organisations communicate with their customers and potential customers. Blogging and editorially lead content is vastly more important than it was a couple of years, as such the role of the copywriter and journalist looks set to become much more integral in marketing departments of the future.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
Obviously Skiddle, goes without saying. I also think there’s something quite magical about brands built around procrastination. The internet is this great resource but ultimately a lot of us use it to waste time (Skiddle is the ultimate Friday 3pm website in this regard), and there’s a truly special art to creating something people avoid work with. I like Sick Chirpse from a content perspective, which is just about dumb stuff on the internet, and then Buzzfeed is the master, a genuinely brilliant webpage.
I imagine at Buzzfeed they have job titles like 'Director of Gifs' and 'LOL Hunter', but behind the silliness is this incredibly well designed business that millions get involved in every day. They’ve also played a big part in focusing on a liberal agenda in America, they were very anti republican during the election and completely showed up the anti-gay marriage protesters. I take a lot of inspiration from this and I’d like to think that there’s an underlying streak of roguish humour in Skiddle’s content.
I also think some of the fashion sites are very good too. ASOS is exceptional at covering a lot of bases and their design is very clean and subtle, which is an important factor. Manchester clothes site Oi Polloi also smash it. They’re essentially selling high-end menswear but they do so with their tongue in their cheek, something which really makes them stand out in the fashion circles. It’s all about creating a sense about what the brand is about in the content you’re getting out there, without having to put the features and benefits of your business over your competitors every single time something’s written.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
The beauty is how easy it is to get involved. Anyone can start a blog, run with an idea, or create something online. The difficulty is getting noticed and being able to do it well, so the only advice I have is that if you want to do something you need to immerse yourself in it completely if you want to get anywhere.
My writing has become quite distinctive over the years but it’s only happened because I religiously read webpages, magazines, album covers and club flyers from the age of twelve onwards. This constant feed of other techniques helped shape a style that was very rough around the edges into something that I’ve been able to forge a great career with. You need to soak up other people’s advice and work and turn it into your own. The joy of the internet is that it’s right there in front of you - just get on with it and never stop doing!
If you would like a Day In The Life profile then by all means throw your hat into the ring by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to put your job title in the subject line. PS - I have had plenty of requests from agency folk, so I especially want to hear from brands / client-side people!