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Copy editing begets content editing

July 10, 2009

I'd love to click something...but this was all as interactive on the iPhone as it is to you here.

With all the hubub around the conversion from printed-page journalism to the Web, I feel like copy editing gets left out of the discussion. I’m not talking about spelling, grammar, etc.—copy editing went much deeper than that in the first place anyway—I’m talking about ensuring a smooth transfer of content from one media platform to the next. (Perhaps we need a new phrase: content editing.)

The screen shot above came from a USA Today mobile app page earlier this evening. The “news quiz” in question is presumably available on (it is), but here on my phone, all I see is a picture of what looks like the start of a quiz and a “take the quiz” graphic that doesn’t do anything.

I’m sure this is just a momentary lapse on USA Today’s part (I’ve raved about their mobile app before and still think it’s hands-down the best news app), but it illustrates the need for keen eyes in the multimedia age. What works in print (plain text) may not be ideal online and vise versa (little snippets of blue, underlined text in print?). Even once content is optimized for Web format, you’ve gotta make sure that what looks good in Firefox doesn’t look like a mid-air collision in Internet Explorer (ex: I-frame embeds).

The “set it and forget it” or “put the paper to bed” mentality of the print era has got to go—we work across many mediums and many platforms within those mediums. If you’ve edited content for one of those, you’re only half done at best.

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