What Do You Do? Editorial vs. Copywriting

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I specialize in two different kinds of writing: editorial and copywriting. A friend recently asked me to explain the difference and I realized there are probably a lot of non-writers out there who don’t know an advertorial from an opinion piece or an article from a press release. I already broke down Editor vs. Copyeditor vs. Copywriter so now it’s time for another showdown: Editorial vs. Copywriting.

Online and print publications such as magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs fall under this category. Writing editorial can range from opinion columns to breaking news to how-to articles to restaurant reviews – all types of writing which involve researching and reporting non-fiction content. News articles in papers like the New York Times and on websites like CNN are 100 percent fact with no opinion inserted — unless it’s a column, review, or opinion editorial (op ed) piece.

Often magazines and blogs take researching and reporting one step further by writing in a branded “voice” or adding extra commentary their readers love. For example, Go Fug Yourself reports on fashion but in a snarky, funny way. They want to bring a special angle to the content that makes it extra-interesting to read. Magazines and blogs also develop their own content that you can’t find anywhere else. Think Martha Stewart Living and the zillions of recipes and craft ideas they publish each month or the exclusive exercises in Women’s Health.

Copywriting is simply words that sell. Brochures, websites, advertisements, and store signage all fall under this category. While this copy may be fun and witty, its main goal is to sell a product or service. These words are written by the company itself or by someone who’s getting paid by the company; however, magazines, newspapers, and blogs report on products, services, and news on their own accord and without payment. Companies could develop their own content here as well. For example, Kraft has a food magazine filled with recipes using all Kraft products – obviously the underlying goal is to get you to buy more Kraft products.

Public relations departments are also internal departments that write words that sell. Their specially-crafted press releases and press kits are sent out to publications in the hopes that a reporter will be intrigued by their company’s product or service, and offer them free press in the form of an article or review.

A Mix of the Two
It’s easier to see how the term “advertorial” got its name.  Advertorials are written by companies that are trying to sell a product or service, but they are disguised as an editorial piece like a review or an article. This kind of writing must be labeled “advertisement” at the top so as not to trick readers.

I’m including social media under this combination category because – depending on who’s using it – it could fall under either editorial or copywriting. A company’s official Facebook page is really just one big marketing campaign, but a news organization’s Twitter feed is really just a stream of editorial articles.

You can check out my portfolio in both arenas of these writings for more examples.
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