I often come across job ads that cite, "WLTM a content editor who can write copy". As you and I both know, although there's crossover and it's a co-dependent relationship, the two are very different beasts.
As digital overtakes print media, content has become the catchall phrase to talk about the ways we talk to our audience. To some, content is just what's on the website or app, to others it includes social media and CRM. Its very existence is ambiguous, so is everyone's understanding of it, that's why job titles, descriptions and team structures follow suit.
However, anyone who works in publishing or editorial is painfully aware of the difference. These heavyweights of the commercial written word are often asked to take on each other's disciplines, but this is detrimental to sales and brand integrity.
In the red corner: Copywriters
I put them in the red corner because this is Red Clay, which a copywriting consultancy, geddit?! This, rather clumsily, shows the difference between a writer and an editor.
A copywriter will think about the content holistically, from each customer touchpoint, the comms that should be generated, the error messages, behavioural economics, awareness levels, sticky words, the analytics and tone of voice.
We spend all day agonising over the killer headline, the SEO lead standfirst, the CTA, the flow and what needs to be addressed. I've spent so much time thinking about conversion rate optimisation (CRO), segmentation and objective of the piece that it eventually all become a blur.
The main difference is I don't care about "proper grammar", as long as it's pacey, addresses a need and speaks in the customer language. That's not to say I don't come out in hives at a missing, or worse, misplaced apostrophe or gaahhh at license v licence. I do. But clauses and not ending a sentence with a dangling participle.
In the blue corner: Editors
Blue is traditionally the colour of conservatives and this describes editors. They do care about dangling participles, the penultimate sentence to this would give them sleepless nights, lying in bed, dreaming up ways to fix this crime against language.
The onomatopoeia used above might have caused a few twitches and by declaring that I simply don't care would make them apoplectic. It's not their job to craft sentences, consider vocabulary, think about the psychology of the page and what it's trying to achieve. They just don't want to break the rules.
In a digital environment, web editors or content editors are the people tasked with building web pages. They are kings and queens of the CMS, gliding from template and component to APIs and iFrames. Any kids fresh out of school could do this, most have their own websites or blogs, so are au fais with how to get words and pictures on a pretty page. The ability to do this doesn't mean they know a compound verb, auxiliary inversion or present subjunctive is. And it certainly doesn't mean they can write for SEO, customer experience or conversion.
Essentially, it's up to the line manager to set up a team that meets business needs. I have done in various, I look at hiring copywriters - as we're in a corporate, KPI driven environment, it's important to have someone who can meet these while ensuring customer experience. And most copywriters have a solid knowledge of spelling and grammar, weeded out with a copy test.
I then upskill them to use confidently use the CMS, therefore working within the confines of head-count and cap-ex and still delivering.
Editors are indispensable in publishing when you're working with authors, "content producers" or user-generated content, as they make sure there are no embarrassing, editorial or legal mistakes. And that everything fits on the page.