Good ideas

So long, Editorially. It was good while it lasted.

Old typewriter

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.

Better collaboration

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.

Image from Alan Turkus on Flickr under Creative Commons.

Grolsch gets personal with your mobile message

Note: I updated this piece on after realising the experience works for everyone – not just people who’ve previously registered on the Grolsch website.

The beer might not stand out from the crowd, but Grolsch has created a clever experience which links email, online video and text messaging.

The campaign centres around a fictional policeman, Journt, who’s giving away packs of Grolsch. It’s not entirely clear why the cops would be handing out free booze, but let’s not dwell on that for now.

To explain further, the firm sent an email to people who’d previously registered on its website:

“To enter the prize draw visit our new website and meet Journt. If Journt knows your name, he will give you some free Grolsch! Simply visit www.grolsch.co.uk to find out more…”

The clever bit comes when you click through the Grolsch website. A short video plays showing the mysterious Journt sat at a bar. He invites you to text your name to the number shown on his business card:

Journt's business card

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be nervous about whipping out your smart phone and texting your name to this Journt character. I’m wary of giving my mobile details to companies because spam text messages bug me.

But if you do take the plunge and send your name, within a matter of seconds, some nifty computer code has received your message and displayed it beautifully in the video window. The result is that you see Journt reading your message:

Grolsch text message

I’ve not seen SMS and web technology joined up quite like this before, and I’m impressed. There’s a definite moment of surprise when your message pops up on screen, particularly as it’s such a fast, smooth, polished experience.

As a nice conclusion to the experience, Journt taps out a message on his phone – which then arrives on your handset a few seconds later. If you’re lucky, he’ll tell you that you’ve won some free beer.

It hasn’t got me gasping for a Grolsch (I’m more likely to enjoy a Meantime Wheat Beer or similar), but it’s certainly raised the brand’s prominence in my mind. As a campaign to boost awareness of Grolsch, it works well.

Two great tabloid headlines that caught my eye

One of the most popular posts on this blog is my list of favourite tabloid headlines. I believe writing great headlines is an art – one that I hope doesn’t get killed off by our obsession with cramming as many keywords into web page titles as possible.

I was just flicking back through some old photos on my phone and noticed a couple of headlines I’ve snapped that are too good not to share. The first is from earlier this year, when anchorman Richard Keys left his job at Sky Sports. It’s short, to the point, and absolutely nails the story:

But it’s the second that I’m more impressed with. Cast your mind back to last autumn and one of the year’s rare good news stories.

Now, imagine you’re a sub-editor at The Sun. How are you going to lead on the story? Would it occur to you to take the name of a band, then carefully change a word here and there to result in a headline of wit and beauty?

No, me neither. You might sometimes question the quality of tabloid journalism, but you can’t deny the intelligence of their headlines.

(Read about some other great tabloid headlines that I’ve spotted.)