An Editor-in-Chief’s Responsibilities in the Digital Age

Jerod Morris, VP of Rainmaker.FM, stops by Editor-in-Chief to discuss the responsibilities of an Editor-in-Chief in today’s on-demand digital content world.

Does the current role of an Editor-in-Chief in the digital space differ from the traditional definition of an Editor-in-Chief?

In this 27-minute episode, Jerod Morris and I discuss:

  • The contemporary content marketing environment
  • How to make a significant contribution to your industry
  • Why connection is king
  • The critical importance of editorial standards in the digital age
  • The similarities between the Editor-in-Chief mindset and The Showrunner mindset
  • The difference between a podcast and a show
  • Common misconceptions about sustainability and profitability
  • One single action you can take to make a meaningful impact right now

The Show Notes

An Editor-in-Chief’s Responsibilities in the Digital Age

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Stefanie Flaxman: Really, you think we should do that?

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Stefanie Flaxman: No introductions.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back, everybody, to Editor-in-Chief. I’m your host, Stefanie Flaxman. Oh, well I guess we shouldn’t go that obvious.

Stefanie Flaxman: My, Stefanie, how your voice has changed. You are hijacking my show, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: That’d be a little jarring to the audience.

Stefanie Flaxman: To correct the record, I am Stefanie Flaxman, and you’re listening to Editor-in-Chief, the weekly audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing, updated for marketing in the digital age to help you become the editor-in-chief of your own digital business.

The cat’s been let out of the bag. I have a very special guest on the line with me today. He is the co-host of one of the biggest content marketing podcasts in the world, The Lede. He’s also the co-host of The Showrunner podcast and the co-creator of The Showrunner Podcasting Course. It is Jerod Morris. Jerod, thank you for joining me.

Jerod Morris: Thank you, Stefanie. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m glad that you and I get a chance to talk. I don’t know if it’s a cool thing or not, but one thing about our positions is, now that we’re on opposite sides — you’re working with Copyblogger more, I’m working with Rainmaker more — is we don’t get to talk to each other as much. We can just schedule each other on each other’s podcasts, and then it’s like we can talk for 45 minutes to an hour, and it’s part of work. That’s kind of cool, and we can catch up.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I like it. I know, because we used to have weekly chats. We used to have lots of brainstorming sessions that way. Those were not recorded. Now we can record them.

Jerod Morris: We did talk about recording them.

Stefanie Flaxman: We talked more about recording them than actually recording them.

Jerod Morris: I know, but someday, that may still happen. The live Google Hangout with you, me, and Demian. I don’t know if the world will ever be ready, but it may happen.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, I don’t know. One day it might click into place. We talked about that live Google Hangout podcast, morph, mush of different ideas. This is working for now. I get you here on my show, and that makes me happy.

I have some questions for you. That was actually a really good little bit of background information, because we used to work in editorial together on the Copyblogger side of things in the Copyblogger Media world.

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

The Contemporary Content Marketing Environment

Stefanie Flaxman: I know you’ve been listening to Editor-in-Chief, so I have sort of this evolved definition of an Editor-in-Chief in today’s content environment. I wanted to get your take, since you work with a lot of different types of digital media, both text and audio, on what you think it means to be an Editor-in-Chief in today’s on-demand digital content world.

Jerod Morris: I think in so many ways, you personify to me what an Editor-in-Chief is and should be, both with what you did before you joined Copyblogger and with what you’re doing now. You’ve seen both sides of it. You’ve run your own show, in a sense, with Revision Fairy, and run your own online business and created and crafted a content strategy around that, and crafted both the themes of the content and the standards of the content and then adhered to them. You were the single person doing that.

How to Make a Significant Contribution to Your Industry

Jerod Morris: I think you’ve applied those skills now to what we’re doing at Copyblogger and taking the larger, over-arching content themes that we’re going for both for Copyblogger and for Rainmaker — because obviously Copyblogger has to incorporate what we’re doing with the Rainmaker Platform — again, making sure that with each piece of content that goes out that those themes are being represented, and that a story is being told, and that an audience is being taken on a journey. At the same time, you’re making sure that standards are kept in check, because that’s something that can slide so easily.

To me, that’s really what it is. That person who is almost a conduit between the producer and the audience, and making sure that the themes and the stories and the ideas that are supposed to be distilled to the audience are done in a systematic way, a way that’s understandable, and a way that adheres to the proper standards so that the overall reputation of the site stays intact. To me, that’s what it means. Does that come close to fitting what your definition is?

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah, and I really like that, too, because we’re both kind of going in the direction of — I say this a lot on Editor-in-Chief — this really intentional, focused content creation. We’re past the point of, “Hey, it would be a good idea to create content for a business. There might be some good results there.”

We’re past exploring that, and we’re now in a phase where what you produce is your body of work. It represents you. It represents your business. It represents the contribution you want to make to your industry. That’s what really having that Editor-in-Chief mindset is to me, which you talked about in your definition, too. There’s just a lot of responsibilities and ownership that comes along with creating digital content now. It’s not just “I’m going to throw things out there and see what happens.”

Why Connection Is King

Jerod Morris: Which is also why the whole concept of ‘content is king’ — I gave a presentation on this a couple weeks ago in Dallas — is really dead. I don’t know if it was ever as accurate as it was portrayed to be, because it’s really ‘connection is king.’ It’s what the content can lead to. It’s like you said, we’re long past the days of, “Oh, let’s just put up content. Any content. Maybe it’ll get in the search engines.” Maybe back in the old days when there wasn’t that much content you could do that, but now it’s about connection. That’s the only way to break through the noise.

I think it’s really whoever the Editor-in-Chief is. Whoever has that role for a site, for a publication, is really in charge of making sure that the content strategy then creates the connection with the audience that it’s supposed to. You’re that person who’s always got to understand the heartbeat of what’s going on and make sure that that’s actually happening.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love ‘connection is king,’ because your role, your job, is to get to know your audience and then serve that audience through the skillset that you have and what you have to offer. It’s a crafted experience for a certain audience. That could transcend tons of different industries and topics. It’s writing. It’s audio. It’s anyone who’s creating a content experience. People have enough content to consume, but when you’re involved in a content experience, nothing else matters. You’re drawn into that reader.

I talked about that recently on an episode where I gave a little limited definition of the difference between weak writing and strong writing. Think about when you read something that is completely captivating. You’re not focused on what time it is, anything else. Weak writing is sort of just, there are words on a page. You could be distracted. You want to click off. It’s so easy to achieve that with writing. That’s not the point. It’s time to move beyond that, and when you become an editor, you’re not just putting out words that people can click away on, you’re creating an experience that is all-encompassing.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

The Critical Importance of Editorial Standards in the Digital Age

Stefanie Flaxman: I was actually thinking — we haven’t talked about this before — but the definition of ‘editorial’ I think is very confusing for a lot of people. The word does have different meanings. Editor-in-Chief, using that first as an example, is more of a traditional journalism term. There are connotations with that, but obviously, things have evolved into a new environment. I’m putting it within the realm of digital business. Digital businesses are so built upon content now, or any business, for that matter.

Jerod Morris: One of the reasons I really like the term ‘Editor-in-Chief’ — and you hit on it — is that it kind of hearkens back to journalism and maybe even an older age. To me, what it really suggests is standards: standards of journalism, integrity of reporting.

Obviously, with what we’re doing at Copyblogger, we’re not going out and reporting on new stories. I still think that having that person who’s the Editor-in-Chief, as an audience member, it gives you this confidence in the publication, saying, “Okay, there’s this person at the end of the line, this Editor-in-Chief, that is in charge of making sure that everything here is top-notch: not just in terms of content, but in terms of accuracy, in terms of standards.” It’s almost like the stamp of approval on content that is really important.

That’s the other thing: in this day and age of the Internet — and it’s been like this since the beginning — trust is so difficult both to feel and to earn. It can be eroded so quickly. As an audience member, you’re looking for sources of content you can trust. That can be a real differentiator for a content creator. Having a person who’s an Editor-in-Chief, or even if there’s not a person, having that mindset that you talk about a lot, it’s such a great way to both explicitly and implicitly give the audience confidence that they can trust what you’re doing.

I think that’s so important. The term, I think, has that imbued in it, from the old-school meaning of the term. I love how you’re taking it and applying it to new-school technologies and new-school trends and ways of content being produced online.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love that. Thank you. It is about standards. When there are standards, your audience is going to trust you more, exactly like you said. That’s the definition, and when I was talking about ‘editorial,’ it is that editorial excellence, these standards for publishing, publishing standards.

I think people get confused, because an editorial can mean an opinion piece in a newspaper. I think people get confused: “Is this journalism? Is this a news story? Is this editorial?” I think it can just be a confusing term for people. Next week, I’m going to go more into the anatomy of an Editor-in-Chief and editorial terms and sort of break down what different things mean. I think that could be interesting.

Jerod Morris: That will be interesting.

The Similarities between the Editor-in-Chief Mindset and the Showrunner Mindset

Stefanie Flaxman: Thank you. There are actually a lot of similarities between my Editor-in-Chief mindset and what you talk about over on The Showrunner and The Showrunner Podcasting Course — the pilot launch, that was several months ago now when you launched that.

Jerod Morris: It was. It seems like it was last week, but you’re right.

Stefanie Flaxman: I know. I was like, April? That was not last week. I really felt like it. We talk about very similar things, and I would even call a Showrunner an ‘under the umbrella’ of Editor-in-Chief.

Jerod Morris: I agree. I think there are a lot of similarities between the two. I think with both of them, both of them are bigger ideas that I think people can really sink their teeth into, and it’s almost like a big comfortable coat that you can wear, in a sense. That’s what we wanted The Showrunner to be.

We knew we were going to do a podcast that was about podcasting. There’s a lot of podcasts about podcasting out there. It’s just like when you’re an Editor-in-Chief, you’re not just putting out tomorrow’s blog post, and then we’re going to put out a blog post the next day. It’s not blog post after blog post. It’s a series of content made to take people on a journey, to make people feel like a hero and help them achieve goals and overcome obstacles. It’s exciting. You start to feel like movie trailers want you to feel when you start thinking about it, right?

The Difference between a Podcast and a Show

Jerod Morris: You could look at it either way. It’s all in the perception. When we decided to call the show ‘Showrunner,’ and to really start to use ‘show’ instead of ‘podcast,’ ‘Showrunner’ instead of ‘podcaster,’ it was really to signal to people, hey, you’re not just creating audio episode after audio episode after audio episode. You’re creating a show that is part of a larger content marketing mix that is taking your audience on a remarkable journey, that at the same time, can take you on a remarkable journey, because it can help you build your business.

You’re not a podcaster, you’re a Showrunner. Just like I love the connotations of Editor-in-Chief. And so many people like me — growing up, I wanted to be in journalism. You would look at the mastheads of publications that you respected and you would see Editor in Chief up there at the top, and it was something to aspire to.

The term ‘Showrunner’ really came from television. You think of guys like Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad and Matt Weiner of Mad Men, two Showrunners I really respect, because I really love their shows. It’s something to aspire to. If you could be an audio version of that … I think about how I felt watching Breaking Bad and binge watching that and just dying to listen to the next episode. If you could create that kind of remarkable experience in an audio sense with your show, man, how great would that be?

There are obviously some differences when you get into the specifics of what we’re talking about with ‘Editor-in-Chief’ and ‘Showrunner,’ but I think when we talk about just being that person who’s truly in charge, who truly has the responsibility for creating a remarkable audience experience, whether it’s text or audio or whatever it is, both those terms are so empowering.

What I’m finding with the Showrunner experience is there are people I think that were waiting for a term like this. An idea, more than the term — the idea to unleash themselves. We’re seeing so many people who didn’t have shows that have started, and you see their confidence skyrocketing, and it’s changing their businesses. It’s so great to see, because there’s an empowerment now, where they’re not like, “All right, I’m sitting, talking into a microphone, and no one’s here listening. What am I doing?” It’s like, “I’m creating a show. I’m doing this great big thing.” I love seeing that. I think both of the ideas really encompass that.

The short answer to your question is yes, I think there are some similarities between the two.

Stefanie Flaxman: There are some similarities. No, I mean, it is that really subtle mind shift that can make such a … Mind shift? Mindset shift?

Jerod Morris: Mindset shift?

Stefanie Flaxman: … a subtle mindset shift that can make a really big difference, where you’re like, “I’m not just putting out blog post after blog post. I’m not just putting out audio episode after audio episode. I’m in charge of all of this.”

It’s similar to the idea of turning pro. You hear about that a lot, too. You’re not just, “Okay, I’m doing this and maybe I’ll see what happens.” You assume that professional mindset and then you’re in charge of a show. You’re in charge of a website, whatever sort of digital content you create.

I just want to remind everyone that Editor-in-Chief is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. It is the complete website solution for smarter digital marketing. You can find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

I was reminded of that, because I was thinking of digital content and you having a place to own what you do. I was reminded of who brings you Editor-in-Chief.

Jerod Morris: That’s right.

Common Misconceptions about Sustainability and Profitability

Stefanie Flaxman: Yeah. Do you have any tip from The Showrunner course that you can share about audio content creation that applies to creating that remarkable audience experience?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I don’t know that it’s specific to audio content creation, simply because I don’t think we need to delve into the specifics of microphones and that kind of thing here. What’s interesting about what we teach at The Showrunner is that so much of what we teach is applicable to all content creation. There are obviously some specifics to creating audio episodes and mic technique, that kind of thing, but I think sometimes people overcomplicate it. It doesn’t need to be that complicated.

The four pillars of our curriculum on The Showrunner podcast and The Showrunner course are authenticity, usefulness, sustainability, and profitability. I think there’s one, if we want to talk about, that certainly the people who are listening to your show can benefit from and maybe that gets overlooked.

When we talk about content creation, it’s almost like, making money from it, sometimes, we feel uncomfortable talking about it. What’s true is that to create a remarkable experience for an audience, it’s got to be sustainable. For something to be sustainable, it has to sustain you, which means you’ve got to generate revenue from it somehow.

If The Showrunner Podcasting Course wasn’t generating revenue, well, we can’t keep doing that. Obviously, Rainmaker and Copyblogger can’t keep putting resources into that. When we talk about profitability, a lot of times people get hung up on direct profitability: “On my podcast, I’ve got to sell ads. On my blog, I’ve got to sell ads. I’ve got to make money off of page views.”

The truth is that most sites and most podcasts are never going to profit directly from their content. It’s just not going to happen. If you do, it’s going to be kind of a pain in the neck, and you may have to sell your soul for the traffic that it’ll take to do that. I know that because I’ve done it before with blogs that I’ve run before.

I think a much better way to look at profitability is indirect profitability, which is what we talk about a lot at both Copyblogger and Rainmaker, which is using your blog, using your podcast, whatever your content is, as a way to educate your potential customers, learn about your potential customers, help take them on a journey, and then offer them a solution that will help them. At Showrunner, it’s the course. At Rainmaker, it’s the platform. At Copyblogger, it’s Authority. At StudioPress, it’s workshops. Right?

There is content, then, that leads people to it. You’re not profiting directly off of the content. It’s an indirect play. That’s what content marketing is. I think it’s important to remember that and also to remember the third aspect of profitability, which is intrinsic.

If you don’t love what you’re doing — independent of the money — if you’re not benefiting in some intrinsic way from the time you’re spending creating content, then your well of passion for creating that content is going to dwindle. Eventually, you’ll go through the motions. Eventually, you’re not creating that authentic connection, because you’re not as useful and you’re not as unique. Now, your connection with the audience dwindles. Your profitability dwindles. You see how it’s this whole big cycle.

Understanding that all three of those elements of profitability go together and that direct is actually the one to focus on last — that should be seen as more of a bonus than your real strategy, unless you’re in that small group of people that have an audience big enough to do it — that will set you up for realistic timelines and a realistic idea for what true sustains success can be from online content.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yes. I love that. Really, with the intrinsic value, too, for you, it’s important to pick the topic that you’re passionate about. Not chasing the topic that might be, “Oh, that’s something good,” because after five episodes or five blog posts, you have nothing else to talk about. When you can make yourself extremely useful, that’s the starting point. Everything that you talked about — I’m not going to try to recap it because you said it perfectly. Thank you for sharing all of that, because I find that extremely valuable. I’m not surprised that you shared something extremely valuable.

Jerod Morris: Well thank you, Stefanie.

Stefanie Flaxman: What is going on with The Showrunner course right now? Where are we at with that?

Jerod Morris: The Showrunner course, we finished the pilot launch. We’ve got a few hundred people that are in the course right now. These people are wonderful. They’re working hard. They’ve gone through the lessons. They’ve given us feedback so that we can improve the course. We’ve added new lessons.

I think we’ve got a full product now ready for launch that we’re really, really proud of and really excited to have new people come join. For anybody who’s looking at creating a show based on audio that you want to deliver to an audience, basically, we want the course and we designed it to be a step-by-step guide to help you develop it, launch it, and run it.

The people in the course really run the gamut, from people who have never run a show before to really experienced people. On both of those extremes and in between, people have found value in it. Maybe they don’t get value from every single lesson, because they’re already past that, but then they get value from the members-only community and from the every-other-week Q&As where we can really dig in and answer specific questions.

Just from having a community of people, a group of people where, when you have tough moments … It’s funny, our private Facebook group that we have has kind of become this little Showrunner therapy place where people will have a tough recording, and they’ll come and share the story. Everybody says, “Oh, yeah, that happened to me. Here’s how I did that. Hey, it’s okay. Keep it going.”

That part blew my mind. I was not expecting the community part to be as important and great as it was. That was just silly thinking on my part. In any community or course like this, it’s always the people that make it great. We’re really fortunate to have an incredible group of people in the course.

We’re re-launching it. Basically how the course will go is we’ll open it for a couple of weeks, close it down, really work with the new people, and then eventually we’ll open it again. For this time, we’re opening it on Monday, August 3rd. It’ll stay open for two weeks. It’ll close on the 14th.

Anybody who’s interested, you can go to Showrunner.FM right now, and you can get on the email list. That way, we’ll be able to email people information when the course opens. Immediately, we’ll be able to send you our free content series, The Four Essential Elements of a Remarkable Podcast, which again, you can apply to anything. You can just say ‘The Four Essential Elements of a Remarkable Blog,’ and frankly, 95 percent of the content in there will be applicable to you.

That’s what’s going on, and we are pumped to get new people in there to meld them with the people that we have. Jonny and I are just having a blast with the course. We’re looking forward to all the new people who are coming in.

Stefanie Flaxman: How exciting. I will put Showrunner.FM in the show notes over on EditorinChief.FM also to direct people over there.

Jerod Morris: I should note, just to make sure that people can have complete trust and confidence in that content series content, it received the official Copyblogger Editor-in-Chief stamp of approval from Stefanie Flaxman.

Stefanie Flaxman: It did.

Jerod Morris: Thank you very much.

Stefanie Flaxman: I was mentally excited. The words didn’t come out of my mouth, but when you were talking about the free content series that you get when you sign up, I was thinking, “Yes, it’s so good!” Jerod knows, I’m very tough. I don’t always say that. I did review it. I went through it, and I thought it was outstanding. This is 100 percent true. I emailed Jerod, and I told him how impressed I was with the content in there.

Jerod Morris: Stefanie, that was one of the nicest emails that I’ve gotten. It brightened my day. I loved it.

Stefanie Flaxman: Well, you’ve sent me the nicest emails that I’ve gotten, too. It was the least I could do. It was truthful. I didn’t do it just to do it. I was so happy when I read that. I was just really, really blown away.

One Single Action You Can Take to Make a Meaningful Impact Right Now

Jerod Morris: If anybody’s not interested in The Showrunner — and maybe you’re not — then at least do this call to action. Send someone a nice email today. Make someone’s day like Stefanie did for me. Tell someone that you appreciate some work that they did.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love that call to action.

Jerod Morris: It’ll go a long way.

Stefanie Flaxman: I love it. People are so busy they don’t always take the time to slow down. As we were talking about earlier, Jerod, it’s those individual connections. Don’t try to change 1,000 people. Focus on what you can do. There are people in your life right now that you can really do something nice, where it comes from a really meaningful place because you appreciate them. Yes. I like that call to action very much.

Jerod Morris: It’s a good call to action.

Stefanie Flaxman: Perfect note to end on. Jerod, I am so happy that we were able to talk today. Thank you so much for coming on Editor-in-Chief.

Jerod Morris: Of course, I will come on here anytime.

Stefanie Flaxman: Yay!

Jerod Morris: I love your show. I love talking with you. We need to do this more often.

Stefanie Flaxman: Definitely. I want to thank everyone for listening as well.

As always, if you like Editor-in-Chief, you can go over to iTunes and leave a rating or a review over there. I would appreciate it very much.

I am Stefanie Flaxman, you have been listening to Editor-in-Chief. Now, go become one.