I hear it repeatedly from publishers both big and small - personal voice is of massive importance in winning over and keeping readers in the incredibly competitive online and email publishing field. Personally, I've been struggling with this as a business model issue for some time now as we've grown.
When I co-founded ContentBiz's parent company, MarketingSherpa (which publishes a range of newsletters and reports in addition to ContentBiz stuff), we assumed I'd be in charge of marketing because it's my background. Then I found myself pinch-hitting for the highly professional journalists we had on staff, whenever one took vacation or needed to be replaced for some reason. Our ad sales guy was the one who noticed, "Anne whenever you do an issue, our pass-alongs and opt-ins go up."
I'm not a 'professional' journalist, but I guess people liked my 'voice' despite (or maybe because of) that. So when we had to cut back on editorial staff due to the recession, guess who got drafted into the main editorial role?
Now that the economy is righting itself (yeah!) and we've been hiring editors again, I've come up against the whole question: If you want to grow beyond being a small publisher, but your personal "voice" is to some extent responsible for your success so far, what do you do? Fred Langa of LangaList gave me this advice this afternoon:
"It's very easy with a small staff or a very large staff, but tougher in-between. If you're larger you can have a copyeditor who ensures the voice of the publication is consistent across artices, time or different publications. It's very hard to do this with a disparate group of people who work more or less independently with no one overseeing them. You'll have a constellation of different publications rather than a single voice.
The Windows Watcher newsletter editor did a very good job of handling this [problem] when he hired staff. Each issue still started with an introduction in his own voice from him. Stories were written by somebody else but readers felt he was still involved and these were his selections. He didn't have to write the whole long article, just the intro to it."