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Integrity Offers Essential Competitive Advantages

Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 10:21 PM

Competition for reader attention and loyalty has never been stiffer. What's an editor to do?

By William Dunkerley

As editors we need to face up to the rapid changes in the competitive marketplace for content. The once-commanding lead of professionally produced and edited content is seeing unprecedented challenges.

Now we're not just competing with other publications with similar editorial focuses. Think about user-generated content, corporate content marketing, and even native advertising within our own pages. These trending practices are in direct competition with us in our endeavors to satisfy the needs and interests of our readers.

Taking Stock

What do we have going for us that others don't? What can be our competitive advantage? In a word, it is integrity -- editorial integrity. That means placing responsibility to the readers as our highest priority. If we can win and solidify the trust of readers, they will be more inclined to turn to our publications and our content for meeting their needs.

Good, reliable content has long been a hallmark of the editorial profession. Well-known editorial consultant Howard Rauch observed, "In the 20th Century, 'truth' was a key guidepost emphasized in most journalism organization ethics codes. Back then, the usual accompanying tenets were independence, minimize harm and accountability."

"But," says Rauch, "the 21st Century has brought digital media challenges that require new thinking.

How prepared are you to meet these challenges? Are you being asked to run native advertising in your publication that is not properly identified? Are you under pressure to participate in advertising sales presentations in a way that compromises your ethics? Is your editorial coverage constrained by directives never to offend present or potential advertisers? And the list goes on.

Rauch, in his role as ASBPE Ethics Committee chairman, has constructed an "editorial ethics self-scoring profile." We commend it to you for your consideration.

Take the Test

For each of the following items, write down a yes or no response:

1. We have a written ethics policy describing advertiser relationships.

2. Our editorial ethics policies are posted on our website.

3. Articles based on original research accurately describe methodology and level of response. We will not publish information based on inadequate return.

4. When interviewing editorial recruits, we present an honest picture of personal and financial growth.

5. When our publication participates in advertorials, content must meet editorial standards for accuracy even though pages are clearly marked as purchased space.

6. We don't take bylines on articles that are merely rewrites of press announcements.

7. We have policy guidelines for all contributing editors in which we caution them that submissions must be plagiarism-free.

8. In all sponsored webinars, the publisher -- not the editor -- fills the moderator role. This is especially critical if the moderator is expected to deliver commercials.

9. If we sponsor product excellence awards, advertisers and non-advertisers have an equal chance of being selected as finalists.

10. We have a written checklist covering key elements of article accuracy.

And Your Results?

I suggest you give yourself ten points for each yes that you recorded. So, how did you do? Did you pass the test?

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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