VP of Editorial
With more than 18 years of experience under her belt, VP of Editorial Angela Nightingale is a linchpin in System1’s publishing operations. We chat with Angela about the importance of integrity in leadership, what qualities she looks for in editors and exciting new publishing initiatives on the horizon in 2022.
System1 Publishing Brands
System1’s publishing team is responsible for delivering compelling user experiences across our portfolio of websites with specialized teams focused on content production, user engagement strategies and performance optimization.
HowStuffWorks and MapQuest are two of the most recognizable brands in our portfolio of publishing sites. We also have ActiveBeat, which is our health and lifestyle brand; WalletGenius, our finance brand; Forkly, our food brand; and Fame10, our entertainment brand. We launched a content site on info.com last year and will be launching an auto site on CarsGenius in the coming months as well.
How did you get into publishing?
It’s actually kind of interesting. I never really planned to go into publishing or editorial. I took a temp job right out of college as a receptionist at an online startup here in Guelph and was just happy to get a foot in the door. I quickly fell in love with the publishing industry and, more importantly, the team that I worked with at the time. I found myself putting my hand up for every opportunity that was available within that company for years. From the start to about eight years into my career, I took on roles in writing, editing, SEO, social media – anything and everything to help me gain as much experience as I could in every aspect of the publishing industry.
In 2012, I decided to leave the position I was in to work with three other colleagues. We launched Concourse Media, and that entire experience has been one of the highlights of my career so far. We spent seven years building properties that we were really proud of and we worked among friends. The environment was fantastic. In 2019, we were acquired by System1, and since then our growth potential has really sky-rocketed. The environment here is fantastic as well and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given over the past three years.
What about publishing did you fall in love with?
My work experience in publishing and my passion for this industry really comes down to user experience. I love connecting readers with information that they need and want. Interacting with our readers — via email, comments on the site or our social channels — has always been very fascinating to me. I think that connecting readers with information that is valuable to them is extremely important, especially in an online environment where so much of the information being reported is irrelevant or misleading.
What’s at the forefront of your mind when you make decisions?
I think integrity is important in a leadership capacity and in creating content. It’s tempting for some publishers to take the easiest route, but actually investing in quality content and having products that we’re proud of – that we want to show our friends and family – that’s always top of mind for me. I want my team members to be happy and they’ll be happier if they’re creating products that they’re proud of.
Accurate and up-to-date information is critical: How do you ensure an article’s accuracy?
We’ve put a lot of effort into having high quality content, especially in health and finance. We do more than just fact-check now, we work with medical experts who are qualified in their respective fields. Every piece of medical content we write in the health space is either written or reviewed by a medical expert. It’s becoming more and more important to give really great experiences to readers that they can trust, especially when it comes to health. So now if you look on the ActiveBeat team page, you’ll see a very diverse group of people that we work with, from doctors and nurses to people who live every day with the medical conditions that we write about.
How do you ensure the success of your team, especially during the pandemic?
I think communication is top of mind in everything that we do within our team. Meeting with team members on a regular basis is very important, especially one-on-ones, where people are more likely to open up.
Overall, though, I feel as though working remotely has had a positive impact on a lot of our team members, especially those who appreciate having a quiet work environment for writing and editing. From a leadership perspective, it’s actually easier for me to manage remotely as we have people and teams across many different locations. It helps ensure I’m not biased towards the team I work closely with here in Guelph.
How do you feel System1 has responded to the pandemic?
I think that the way that the System1 leadership team has navigated this pandemic – the way they have supported every team member, the way they have provided flexibility for parents, and their overall commitment to showing up week after week, month after month – is truly impressive and inspiring. It’s easily one of the greatest examples of company leadership I’ve seen throughout my career.
What do you look for when hiring an editor?
Previous writing and editing experience are obviously important — as is a Bachelor’s degree in journalism or English. More importantly though, is a passion for the particular vertical or topic we’re hiring for. Past experience and proven success are both very important as well, but the need to achieve – one of our core competencies – is much more important than anything you can put on paper.
Do you ask for writing samples?
We do ask for writing samples to help get an idea of a writer’s style. Is their tone conversational? Is it more informative? Can they write in more than one style and across many topics? Things like that. We usually ask for 2-3 to start.
What’s the one piece of editing or writing advice?
When reading back your work, ask yourself, “can I say this in a shorter, more concise way?” If the answer is yes, it will likely read much better if you trim it down.
What kind of challenges have you faced recently?
I think this goes back to what we were talking about earlier in regards to integrity. There have been a lot of challenges over the last five years, but the one that comes to mind the most is keeping quality high when our competitors weren’t doing the same. Quality content is expensive – from both a cost and time perspective – and it’s easy to cut corners. For many years, it seemed like our competitors were cutting corners and finding success in doing so. It would have been easy for us to go down that same path, but we chose to stay committed to quality. Fortunately, over the last year or two, there’s been a shift in the industry that has benefited publishers like us who put user experience first. So it’s nice to see those efforts finally paying off.
What has driven the change toward quality content on the web?
Many advertisers are pushing for publishers to produce higher quality content. There are advertising policies that now flag things like clickbait ads, superlatives in titles, misleading information, and so on. These changes have pushed publishers to make better ad copy and a better overall content experience for readers. It’s a shift in the industry that many publishers have found difficult to navigate.
The publishing team is breaking into the international market this year – what will that entail?
Yes, this is a really exciting initiative! We worked closely with Mason Alikhani and his team last year to test content in international markets. The success the team had in 2021 showed great opportunity for 2022. We are now moving ahead with focused international efforts, meaning localized experiences for our readers in various countries, languages, and dialects. Late last year we partnered with a freelance platform that has editors, writers, and experts in 74 different languages and dialects. It’s an exciting initiative, and I think everyone involved is happy to be a part of it.