With bags of experience as a jobbing journalist, I have been through the fear factor of technological change before.
When I was in my 20s, at the vanguard of online writing, I laughed in my youthful way at how people like me were supplanting much more experienced journalists. It’s not really funny (people’s livelihoods never are). The fundamental difference for my generation is not that I was a better writer. I was just a better all-rounder. In 1990, a good journalist could rely on an editor to polish up their text, research pictures, run a spellcheck and liaise with clients. By 2005, that was the preserve of a select few lucky dinosaurs. I was used to doing it all myself.
And I wrote a mental note: don’t get lazy. The tech trend is inexorable. Don’t think writing is a given living. Because the tools to supplant writers will come.
And they have. The spectacular Quill platform, for example, includes completely automated services which will make journalists for some purposes entirely redundant.
Again, some writers will scoff. How can a machine possibly replace the style and insight of a person? Well, a machine already has the research capability to snaffle a Google’s worth of research in seconds, and the style element is coming on nicely. The fact is, for many corporate content applications, the requirement is not brilliant content, but content which is good enough. Good enough to encourage interest, or a click-through to a sales opportunity. And machine-curated content can easily be A/B tested in hours to refine and improve to the nth degree.
Maybe I’m talking myself out of a job here, but it’s an important distinction. In a commercial environment, ‘good enough’ is a very important concept. It doesn’t mean mediocre. ‘Good enough’ is what allows us to judge outlay against value. A really good writer could produce prose of Shakespearean quality if the budget was right – but you can bet it won’t be! ‘Good enough’ means ‘fit for purpose’, capable of delivering the marketing objective required. And therefore, ‘good enough’ is a benchmark we should be proud of.
And for any content creative, it matters. As a content producer with a background in writing, just like my predecessors in the first paragraph, I have had to evolve or die. I am a good content writer by nature, but I am now also a good enough video producer and a good enough graphic producer – both thanks to ample assistance from technology.
The graphic at the top of this page is, well, hardly a creative triumph. But you didn’t say that to yourself when you first saw it. It set the page up nicely. It’s good enough. I will never be a professional artist or graphic designer, but I know what will be ‘good enough’ – and again, let me reiterate, I don’t mean mediocre, I mean functional and valid within whatever defines budgetary or time constraints. In this context, good enough means ‘enough to head up a new blog post’, and in this case, creation thanks to a few minutes on the (superb) design site, Canva.
I have lovely people to help me with ‘proper’ design work. I wouldn’t dream of trying to construct an infographic (it would be a disaster). Because my work would not be good enough. But today’s content producer needs to be multi-skilled, and if not capable of shining at multiple disciplines, at least knows when to deploy technology or buy in help. Today’s journalist is a great writer and ‘good enough’ at a lot of other things – including appreciating the value to the consumer of every element of content they create; which in turn informs the management, financial and technology decisions they make.