For the last year or so, I’ve been using an online writing tool called Editorially.
When it launched in early 2013, Editorially promised a new way for writers to work and collaborate with editors, contributors and — in my case — clients.
Simple and fast
Compared to bloated tools like Microsoft Word, Editorially is stripped back and super speedy, with an uncluttered appearance that encourages you to focus on what you’re writing.
Unlike Word, it doesn’t impose print standards like A4 on your work. That means Editorially makes a lot of sense for digital writing where the idea of a physical, printed page is irrelevant.
But for me, the real power of Editorially comes from two things:
- It relies on markdown to format text. Once you learn a few shortcuts (like # for a main headline or stars *for italics*), you can add formatting without needing a full WYSIWYG editor. It exports clean HTML and can publish straight to WordPress, too.
- It offers well thought out collaboration functions. These make it pretty easy to send work out for review and gather comments, without relinquishing control altogether or ending up in a painful writing-by-committee-using-tracked-changes situation.
It took a while, but Editorially has become a valuable weapon in my writer’s armoury.
So, it’s a real shame that it’s shutting down.
The end of Editorially
The company announced the end of its short-lived service last week, in an articulate and honest blog post.
“Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable, and we cannot honestly say we have reason to expect that to change.”
In some ways, this is a stark illustration of the economics of online tools. Editorially has no sponsorship and charges no fees to its users (although it had planned to introduce charges and I would have happily paid).
It seems to have followed a fairly typical digital business model: attract lots of users, and work out how to make money from them later.
But it sounds as though disappointing user numbers have eliminated any hope of Editorially becoming a sustainable business. I wonder if that’s because Editorially is a good idea that the world isn’t ready for.
We all default to Microsoft Word
The big challenge Editorially faces is that we’re all pretty much hard-wired in to using Microsoft Word. When you need to write something, you reach for the big ‘W’ on your desktop.
It’s hard to break away from this pattern. And believe me, I’ve tried.
Although I’ve been using Editorially a lot to work up ideas and write draft content, often I end up exporting it to Microsoft Word in order to share it with clients.
It’s just easier that way. Although it’s not the best tool for the job, people are comfortable with Microsoft Word. If I send them a .docx file, they can just open it.
But if I send them a link to Editorially, they have to enter their details to register, then figure out the best way to view my content and add comments.
It’s hardly an enormous barrier, but it’s big enough.
What now for Editorially users?
Editorially is one of the quickest and tidiest ways I’ve found to work on digital content. It’s the first purpose-built tool for content creation that I’ve tried and stuck with.
But now I have to find something else.
I’ve dabbled with IAWriter and Scrivener. I’ve heard good things about Penflip. I’m sure I’ll keep using Microsoft Word out of necessity, but there’s definitely an Editorially-sized gap in my professional life that needs filling.