E-news exclusivity vs. duplication -- which description best fits your delivery?
Any evaluation of e-news capability must be considered in term of competitive achievement. Columnists
claiming expertise in e-news matters emphasize the urgency of delivering high-value information
unavailable elsewhere. Clearly this is a tall order. In many competitive match-ups, it becomes apparent
that exclusivity is in short supply.
Instead, competitive sites post coverage of identical developments burdened by embarrassing
duplication in terms of angles chosen and sources quoted. Industries where hot news breaks are
constant have a better shot of providing a constant flow of exclusive reporting. Other sites are not as
fortunate. They don't have staff support required to dig behind the scenes for articles based on
investigation rather than rewrite of low-interest PR announcements.
Imagine the frustration heaped upon a staff struggling to produce a weekly e-newsletter where
industry news flow is anemic. Suddenly, the staff is called upon to fulfill content demands for a daily or
a second weekly. Exclusivity is almost out of the question. Instead the pipeline is filled with old news
where initial posts occurred weeks or months ago.
Convention coverage poses the true test wherein competitors should be able to document exclusivity.
Who did the best job of interviewing program speakers as opposed to writing a story based on a PR
handout? Who sponsored a newsworthy, well-attended event? How many end-users attending the
show were polled for several round-up articles?
B2B news managers do not support exclusivity claims by relying on curated material, no matter how
timely. And we are even less likely to make a favorable impression if most of our current posts are
unedited PR announcements. The best way to assess your competitive status in the race for exclusivity
bragging rights is to run like-item analysis covering the past three-six months. In many cases you may
find your staff being surpassed by a more resourceful competitive crew.
No excuses for less than excellent execution of three basic e-news components
by Howard Rauch, president, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
When e-news sites are scored during Editorial Solutions, Inc. consulting assignments, allowances
might be made for heavy workloads due to daily frequency or lack of adequate staff support. But if it
comes to evaluating basics, there are no excuses for earning minimum scores on factors such as Fog
Index, at least one solid long-form article per issue or introductory story-telling value. Nevertheless,
many sites miss the boat, leaving them much more vulnerable when exposed to opposition's
competitive analysis superiority claims. Here is a quick refresher on three basic practices you probably
could improve immediately.
(1) Foggy writing. Fog Index is a well-established readability measure I rely on when making
judgments about editorial pace. A Fog Index grade level for a passage of text is derived by calculating
average sentence length (ASL) plus percentage of "hard" words (generally three syllables or more) --
HWP. Adding ASL and HWP, then multiplying by 0.4, produces a grade level. The desired grade level
range is 10-12. For my studies, I stretch the grade level range to 10-12.5. Articles falling within that
range earn a full score of ten points. Articles fogging out at 16 or higher earn zero points.
(2) Evidence of depth. If article delivery relies primarily on 200-400-word rewrites of PR
announcements, you'll rarely be able to offer insight afforded by, say, 750-1200 words. Some staffed-
up sites develop several long-form articles every day. But if that's beyond you, at least your opening
article should clearly reflect in-depth enterprise reporting as well as exclusivity. When my eight-factor e-
news scoring system is applied during annual studies, in-depth coverage usually stands out in a crowd
of lesser efforts.
(3) Fast-paced lede. Introductory paragraph efficiency reflects number of words used before arriving at
the "take-away" value or reader benefit. The fewer the words used, the better. An article reaching the
ikey point within ten words (shown as -10 on my scoring form) earns a full ten-point valuation. The key
pitfall that produces a zero grade is "source first, news second" lede format. This format often is used
in PR announcements. Unfortunately, many editors allow this sequence to stand because time doesn't
seem to allow "news first/source later" reconstruction.
Avoid these ten pitfalls when gathering direct quotes for e-news articles
Recent e-news studies conducted by Editorial Solutions, Inc. cite a shortfall of articles containing direct
quotes. Especially lacking: quotes from end-user sources. When quotes are used, usually they are not
based on contact between editor and source. Instead, information posted clearly is word-for-word
rewrite of PR announcements. Result: information often is hard to read -- aka lots of long sentences
and/or low-value puffery. Here are ten pitfalls you want to avoid when posting quotes on-line or in
print media news sections.
(1) Numberless pitfall. Interviewer settles for adjectives ("big" . . . "substantial" . . . "modest") as
opposed to hard numbers. Sometimes this occurs because editor doesn't know right questions to ask.
At my former company, we defeated this problem by providing all staff members with a list of two
dozen questions that required quantitative answers.
(2) Redundant pitfall. In the published article, first the point is paraphrased, after which a quote
merely echoes rather than expands upon the point.
(3) Transition pitfall. After responding to the specific question posed by the interviewer, interviewee
tacks on a totally unrelated observation that somehow gets published.
(4) Jargon pitfall. Interviewee responds in popular terms (such as fashion retailer always talking
about "functional" garments) but offers no specific examples.
(5) Unclear pitfall. Interviewer doesn't understand what interviewee is saying, but includes the direct
quote anyway, assuming editor or managing editor will correct any snafus.
(6) Windbag pitfall. Interviewee offers 500-word, valueless responses to most questions. An
intimidated interviewer makes no attempt to channel response along more useful lines.
(7) "For example" pitfall. Interviewee generalizes about specific trends or techniques. Writer fails to
ask the "for example" question in pursuit of better information.
(8) Hype pitfall. Usually occurs during interviews with advertisers trying to get as many self-serving
statements as possible into the article.
(9) Platitude pitfall. Typical quotes get posted all too often (like "people are our most important
asset" and "quality products and service are emphasized at all times").
(10) Wrong source pitfall. This usually shows up in articles based on end-user input. Because of
difficulty reaching the best interviewee, writer settles for a convenient quote provided by a company
PR source who is not necessarily in the loop. This habit needs breaking. Among other reasons why, it
can be used against you by your opposition during a future competitive analysis report.
To avoid posting any low-value quote, of course, you must go the enterprising route by calling the
original source (if dealing with a PR announcement) for better input. Nowadays, however, many editors
explain they don't aways have time to do that. Alas!!!
When planning a debut issue, don't let the editorial column be your weakest link
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
When you sponsor a launch, your goal is to demonstrate total editorial capability/resources. Obviously
you want to impress readers with authoritative content produced by an industry-wise staff. Doing it
right scares the dickens out of any existing competitors that have been getting by with a minimum-
value editorial package. On the other hand, second-string execution by you provides the opposition
with a field day in terms of being able to rip your effort to shreds.
There are dozens of factors that come into play during the launch stage. This discussion focuses on
three make-or-break considerations.
(1) The editor-in-chief's personal column must reflect the author's industry knowledge. A conventional
announcement of a magazine's launch accompanied by a plea for reader feedback is unacceptable.
Alert competitors can detect when an editor insufficiently grounded on the industry is faking it in terms
of knowledge. A more critical practice, however, is the tendency to make unfilled promises about future
editorial content. Battle-weary opponents know the value of saving the debut issue's editorial column.
Several issues down the road, they compare promises made against reality. If the publication has
fallen short -- as many do -- an itemized failure list clearly does competitive damage.
(2) Content should reflect editorial connections established with leading industry authorities. This goal
visibly is met via interviews with or presence of star thinkers as regular contributing columnists.
(3) A parting thought pertaining to the editor's performance is whether or not the debut issue carried
an important feature written by that individual.
Last but not least, remember that debut issues -- and at-show issues -- can be scored. I use a ten-
factor system for debut issues and a 22-factor system for at-show issues.
Every editorial column written should reflect 'industry insider' status
No competitive analysis discussion is complete without special attention to expectations for an editor-
in-chief's personal column. In fact, each column should reflect"insider status" as opposed to "observer"
status. There is a difference.
Specifically, the insider attempts to propose solutions to an industry problem his/her column reviews.
The best an observer can do is describe a known problem, then hope readers can figure best courses
In addition to columns that reflect "insider" or "observer" capability, a third variation exists: "parroting."
Typically, the author makes no attempt to introduce original thinking. Instead, the commentary merely
pulls excerpts from articles appearing in the issue. To a certain extent, what you have is a second
contents page rather than an opinion piece.
Now consider this: Competitive editorial analysis reviews should always start with the editorial column.
You can punch some very big holes in the opponent's armor if columns don't exude the desirable
Then there is this thought: Insider status is not achieved overnight. From the first day a junior editor is
on the job, there should be a program in place designed to raise that individual's authoritative grasp of
industry affairs as quickly as possible.
For those of you who contend that columns also should reflect expertise in one's craft, here is a
reference list worth considering:
*The headline should immediately reflect the column's take-away value. Don't expect to do this with a
format that calls for headline lengths of just three or four words.
*If a deck is required, it should expand upon rather than duplicate the headline's message.
*The main article's introductory paragraph should reach a key story point within the first ten words.
Obviously that's impossible if you prefer launching each column with a multi-paragraph anecdote
devoid of required immediacy.
*The best efforts are those totally based on the author's personal views. This is as opposed to a
column totally devoted to quoting other parties inside or outside your industry.
*Fog Index reading levels should not exceed 10th-12th grade.
There is one more notable point pertaining to this discussion:
The "industry insider" is prepared to take a leadership position, either in tackling an industry problem,
deploring unacceptable industry practices, or attacking unfavorable pending legislation.
Many editors write well-researched columns that deliver the insider's view every time. But too many
authors still resort to parroting more often than not. How do you fit into this picture???
It often takes editorial courage to post controversial content
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Recently I learned of a fracas occurring when the editor of a consumer magazine took a stand contrary
to widely-held views of the audience. Readers were outraged and some corporate execs were
incensed enough to cancel their advertising schedules. Ultimately, probably when backed into a corner,
publishing top management dismissed the offender.
The situation reminded me of my own brushes with controversial matters during my years as an
editorial director. I still believe that every industry has important touchy issues that deserve attention.
Some editors, supported by their publishers, have the courage to move ahead. But in too many other
cases, the editor is bludgeoned into silence by a publisher concerned that advertisers will be offended.
And there are other times when editorial staffs, buried in quantitative drudgery, have no time to
pursue situations where important conflicting views exist.
As a result, editorial competitive analysis projects I've conducted over the years consistently found
meek content in industries where multiple disputes shouted for coverage. But there were other times
when editors jumped the gun, basing an explosive attack on unsubstantiated views from a lone
individual with an obvious axe to grind.
For those of you who read a column I wrote encouraging editors to assume "insider status" as soon as
possible, there is a truism that can't be ignored. The insider will quickly become aware of every
skeleton buried in the closet. The observer doesn't have a clue . . . ever!!!
Well-warranted controversy should have its day in every B2B publication. If you agree, you must
decide which issues must be exposed. If you disagree, you may not be delivering enough of the need-
to-know information your audience has found it can obtain elsewhere.
How to keep your e-news in fighting shape!
For those of you striving to keep your e-news content in fighting shape, here are some tips you may
wish to incorporate into your next e-newsletter.
- E-newsletter lead article must reflect evidence of enterprise. Focus on a hot issue and
gather high-value direct quotes from at least five sources.
- Characterize your e-newsletter package. One site describes each edition as containing the
"Top Ten Stories" from the preceding week. Another site focuses a weekly package of five to
seven articles on a specific topic. These practices are preferable to the usual offering of a broad
assortment of unrelated items. Content-wise, there's nothing overtly wrong with the latter
approach. You just don't stand out from the crowd.
- 'Long' embedded links offer a more compelling reason to click through. The typical approach
seems to be links of three to five words. Instead, some sites use full-sentence leads to pull
visitors into linked material.
- Include some original thinking in aggregated tease blurbs linking to outsourced news. I've
seen this idea executed only once during a recent review of 1020 articles collectively posted by
100 B2B sites. This is a case where a daily e-newsletter's package always consists of linking to
posts appearing in daily newspapers or items churned out by wire services. For selected blurbs,
the editor includes his take on how the development in question impacts visitors. Copy is set in
can't-be-missed red type.
- Think of more inventive ways to present routine news. Good places to start are with
personnel announcements and financial report summaries.
Now here are two practices where dramatic improvement is required:
- Avoid 'un-news' headlines, especially in convention-oriented articles. This glitch obviously is
a carry-over from uncorrected print habits. The test of a good headline is that it reflects the
author's investigative effort. Instead, I see a parade of 'Association X announces plans for
upcoming show" or "Conference sponsor Y expects big turnout at Chicago annual" or
"Convention Z program will address several critical issues." What these heads have in common,
aside from obvious flaws, is that all could have been written without consulting a single source.
- Don't abuse your byline privilege. E-news articles that carry bylines are supposed to reflect
the presence of enterprise reporting. Instead, I continue to encounter sites where staff
members take bylines on obvious rewrites of submitted press announcements.
Five graphics execution factors provide ammo for a competitive analysis attack
When typical magazine competitive analysis strategy is mapped out, usual emphasis is on what the
words say rather than evidence of graphics expertise. Thus editors may be asked to track number of
pages devoted to specific product categories. Or attention might be paid to "first and only"
achievements by opposing parties.
Such approaches, of course, have merit. But adding graphics analysis to your review may suggest
additional strengths worth exploiting or some surprising weaknesses worth correcting. Let's look at
five possible categories you might test-count for a period of three to six months.
(1) Overall illustrated percent. This tabulation reflects the relationship between total pages per issue
carrying editorial content and how many of those pages use photos, line art or tabular material.
(2) Infographics percent. Instructive graphic elements should appear on at least 20 percent of pages
per issue carrying editorial content. Of the five factors cited in this discussion, infographics execution
often is a sure-fire weak link.
(3) Pages/graphics ratio. The calculation requires dividing total number of pages carrying editorial
content into total number of illustrations. A sub-consideration of that relationship is that there should
be at least one graphic on every page carrying editorial content. The true sign of strength would be
a ratio of 2.0 or higher.
(4) Number of active front cover lines. "Active" refers to the use of active verbs as opposed to posting
web-less labels. An attention-getting cover offers at least five story lines highlighting a variety of
topics. Some editors are able to include eight story lines.
(5) Story-telling photos percent. While a magazine may be abundantly illustrated, many photos used
lack news impact. For instance, some publications are dominated by head shots and concept art.
Concepts may be okay in a pinch. But sometimes you find overuse of stock graphics (like handshakes,
dollar signs, over-sized question marks, and so forth). My photo analysis target calls for faces +
concepts to account for no more than 20 percent of the illustrations used in an issue. There are, of
course, exceptions to this rule, such as an issue focusing on industry personalities.
Nine common headline snafus continue to elude the editing process
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Recently I repeated my ongoing role of judging Best Headline entries in the annual AZBEE competition
sponsored by the American Society of Business Publication Editors. As in the past, the usual snafus
were present here and there. So it appears that there's still a need to provide my annual refresher.
This installment covers nine ways to inject more story value into every headline/deck.
(1) Include high-impact numbers. Many B2B editors still are not sufficiently tuned into writing headlines
with a quantitative focus. Surprisingly, the shortfall is most notable in research-oriented features
where numbers-oriented headlines shout to be written. Sure . . . you need not use a number every
time. And sometimes numbers don't see the light of day because the article's author never tried to
gather important quantitative facts.
(2) Covers using one or two"label" headlines should be replaced with at least four or five active heads.
(3) Every contents page blurb should be treated as a headline+deck combination. Each blurb's aim is
to sell reader value. Vague boldface heads accompanied by sketchy blurbs don't do the trick. And try to
avoid using isolated stet heads only to identify departments.
(4) Headline/deck "overlap" remains the most prevalent shortfall. This occurs when headline and deck
essentially convey the same message. Sometimes a main headline of only three or four words has
kicker value at best.
(5) Too many headlines are burdened by policies imposing maximum counts of three or four words.
Other times, I find an overdose of attempts to be clever rather than informative.
(6) The editor's personal column definitely requires a headline longer than two or three words. When I
judge a Best Editorial Column competition, I am impressed when a headline, deck and call-out are used
to underscore take-away value.
(7) Interesting letters to the editor often are burdened by two- or three-word "unheadlines." If this is
a matter of policy at your company, abandon it soon.
)8) A high-value headline describes what the writer discovered rather than the nature of the event
covered. Somewhat related: a strong headline reflects the editor's presence at the event.
(9) Last but not least, every caption written should function as a mini-headline. This definitely doesn't
happen when face photos accompanying a feature article are two-word labels consisting of the
source's first and last names.
Communicate clear objectives when assigning stories to staff editors
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
You'd think the above suggestion would be a no-brainer for most assigning editors. But in today's
environment of work overload, nothing can be assumed. During a recent project focusing on e-news
improvement, I found evidence that assignments were being made in haste. Adequate direction on
story angles and contacts were lacking. If you're guilty of this shortfall, you are placing inexperienced
junior editors in an obvious quandary. No matter how valiant an effort is made to gather information,
the effort is likely to fall short. What's more, the assignee usually ends up being criticized unjustly for
failing to deliver the goods.
So it became necessary for me to insist that a more adequate story assignment approach be taken.
The way things work now, three parties -- editor-in-chief, managing editor and editorial consultant
(me) serve as coaches for subordinate staff. Here's how the revised assignment system works:
- Editor-in-chief passes along press releases and such for assistant editors to write up.
instructions include placement recommendations regarding channels, resources, research, etc.
Additionally, staff editors is advised which releases are to pursued for enterprise reporting along
with suggestions for potential sources.
- Prior to writing the article, assignee further discusses article with managing editor to identify
specific subject matter to report, nail down sources and draft specific questions.
- Assignee completes first draft and sends file to consultant for analysis and tutoring.
- Assignee makes revisions as necessary and sends the file to managing editor.
- Editor-in-chief reviews final article, including headline and presentation elements.
This all seems routine . . . right? Maybe, but my ongoing e-news reviews suggest it's not happening.
As one publisher recently explained: "With the load of content we are required to generate every day,
there no longer is time to assign or deliver articles that are up to our standards."
Are you really fulfilling today's B2B editorial mission? 20-factor test is revealing!
Has the true editorial mission of B2B editors gotten lost in the shuffle of new technology combined with
a tight economy? To provide some answers, I recently posted a 20-factor exam on the American
Society of Business Editors national site. The blog was the highest traffic puller during the past several
months. Time spent per visit was a remarkable 14:48 minutes.
The thrust of my contribution was simple: There's more to being an editor than knowing how to
update a site, write e-news or code copy. However, many of us have become wrapped up in web
technology to the point that fulfillment of other vital editorial mission requirements has languished.
So check yourself out via the following "yes" or "no" challenge. Give yourself five points for every "yes"
answer . . . "zero" for every " no" answer. Passing grade = 80.
- Field trips include reader visits rather than just show coverage. Score: _____
- I write a bylined feature in every issue. Score: _____
- I write at least one high-enterprise e-news article per week. Score: _____
- I am conversant with every new industry trend. Score: _____
- My blogs reflect insider commentary rather than just blurb thinking. Score: _____
- Whenever possible, my blog is presented in video format. Score: _____
- I respond regularly to important blogs posted by industry experts. Score: _____
- I have no problem writing a statistically-oriented article. Score: _____
- I generate a constant stream of personalized correspondence. Score: _____
- It's not all e-mail! I keep up with key players via phone and field trips. Score: _____
- I have no problem making a speech and am in demand as a speaker. Score: _____
- I get involved in association affairs and volunteer for committees. Score: _____
- I constantly suggest publicity angles to our promotion department. Score: _____
- I wield a mighty tennis racket, golf club or whatever else it takes. Score: _____
- I know my reporting is 100% accurate. Score: _____
- I regularly exchange business cards with important show attendees. Score: _____
- I keep abreast of other department activities affecting my job. Score: _____
- I read competitive magazines regularly and score them vs. mine. Score: _____
- I always match strengths/weaknesses of our e-news vs. competition. Score: _____
- I look like "someone" when I go into the field. Score: _____
Use this 5-step approach to resolving editorial complaints
In my pre-consulting days, when I was VP/editorial of a leading B2B multi-publisher, proper complaint
handling was accorded high priority. First, we had a written policy in place. Second, we ran periodic
complaint-handling workshops for new editors and/or salespeople. The session usually was led by our
executive vice president. Here are five policy excerpts specifically directed at editors:
- When you receive a complaint via telephone, take down all the information -- and make the
caller aware that you are doing so. Do not argue, and don't constantly break in to pass the
buck to your printer, the advertising department or anyone else. For the moment, you are the
magazine to the complaining party -- and that party expects results from you.
- The very same day, a letter should be sent to the aggrieved party confirming the conversation,
offering a solution, or indicating a deadline by which you will get back to that person with a
solution. If appropriate, attempt to resolve the problem by offering to print a prompt correction,
a letter to the editor or "compensatory editorial" in an early issue.
- Your readiness to resolve the complaint may in itself be the ticket to neutralizing the anger of
the person at the other end of the line. Before you end the call, always ask the complaining
party whether there are any other concerns that should be addressed.
- If the complaint is serious to the point that you can't arrive at a solution, try bumping up the
matter to your boss. Attention from a superior often scores points with the complainant.
- A conciliatory approach may make a friend and avert a crisis
Consumer audits: A promising path to creating editorial excitement
Publications that successfully serve retail audiences strive to produce a steady dose of meaningful
statistics. One way to get there is via running your own consumer audit. It takes a bit of organizing,
but the results are worthwhile. Here's a typical procedure you might follow:
- Arrange with a key group of reader contacts -- such as editorial board members -- to allow an on-
premises audit desk to be set up at selected stores or offices.
- An editor or experienced, thoroughly-oriented freelance writer at the desk asks customers
leaving the premises to participate in a five-minute audit. There is an appropriately-worded
poster visible by the desk explaining the project.
- Promise cooperating retailers an advance summary of information gathered.
Via a concentrated effort over a period of four to six months, you should be able to accumulate input
from 350-600 respondents. An even faster way to tackle this project is possible if you have exhibit
management contacts that sponsor consumer shows. Management might be willing to provide you
with some free booth space where you would have thousand of show-goers to question.
Legal alert: Avoid mid-stream reporting of unsettled disputes
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Talented writers promoted into management roles may not be up to speed on possible legal snafus.
In my VP/editorial director days, I ran periodic in-house workshops reviewing common oversights that
could bring on battlefield conditions. The trap that invariably lands even some most experienced
editors in hot water involves mid-stream reporting of unsettled disputes.
The glitch is simple enough to understand and should be included in every editorial manual. Namely,
never report in-progress developments of legal dispute until the matter is settled by written court
decree. There are many ways to go astray. For example, Party A in a bitterly contested makes a copy
of the complaint available to the unsuspecting editor. The complaint alleges all sorts of misconduct by
Party B plus the stiff penalties the defendant faces if convicted. Our editor proceeds to write a hot
story headlining the news that B has been charged with a possible prison term plus big penalties. The
editor mistakenly has treated the complaint as the final decision.
There is another common glitch that I've encountered more frequently in my consulting practice. This
problem stems from the vexing habit of excerpting content from daily newspapers or business
information websites. This hardly is a way of engaging in enterprise reporting. The trap from a legal
standpoint occurs when the editor neglects an obligation to perform pre-publication fact-checking.
A final reminder pertains to a bad habit that definitely can land you, at the very least, in complaint
territory pertains to misuse of "endorsement language." This usually arises when a new product
release from Manufacturer A is run virtually unedited. The published item includes alleged claims of
superiority vs. Manufacturer B's line. Or the release claims that A's product is the only one on the
market even though B, C and others provide comparable items. As a matter of policy, editors must
strike a neutral tone in all copy written for a new products section.
All cautions pertaining to legal pitfalls such as the above should be incorporated into a written policy
statement that is distributed to all editorial staff members.
Forming an editorial board? Have a plan for maximizing feedback!
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Every so often, I field questions about the value of editorial boards. In fact, considering all the other
stuff on our plates today, forming and then overseeing a board is a time-consuming process. For that
reason, many of you might like to defer getting started. On the other hand, once you have an
authoritative, dedicated group of board members in place, benefits in terms of content improvement
can be significant.
There are four possible ways to get maximum input: (1) Send published articles to pre-selected
members for comment; (2) use a peer review board to review/recommend improvements for articles
prior to publication; (3) poll the group twice a year (I prefer telephone as opposed to impersonal snail
mail or e-mail surveys); (4) host a class dinner for your board during a major convention that most
members are likely to attend.
Of the above possibilities, (3) and (4) are the most promising. In the case of (3), first I drew up a list
of ten questions I wanted to discuss with board members. The objective was not so much to get
feedback on past issues as it was to determine what we should be doing next. I also wanted board
member perceptions on how they ranked us against the competition in terms of editorial strengths and
weaknesses. One of my key concerns was whether other magazines were doing a better job than we
were of maintaining personal relationships with the industry in question. Once my list was drawn up, I
wrote a letter to each board member (the typical group size was limited to 25 maximum) outlining the
agenda. I asked for 30 minutes of their time and advised that I would call soon to set up a date for
the interview. When board members were first recruited, they were told that these interviews would
be a condition of board participation. To make a long story short, depth of response was tremendous.
As for organizing a board, it helps if you've established contact with many of the executives you'd like
to have join your group. Your letter of invitation should outline benefits of membership. In my case, I
was able to offer exclusive information alerts that would be available to board members. Another perk
was the availability of a qualified staff editor to provide a special briefing to a board member's
executive group on current industry trends. Also worth mentioning were the usual amenities, like
being listed on the magazine's masthead and receiving a handsome plaque of board member
Finally, if your arrangement is working smoothly, you should be able to poll board members
occasionally for a high-value, exclusive feature to appear in your magazine and/or on your website.
Productivity reports document travel efficiency, writing delivery
by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
Considering today's huge workloads, top management should be less inclined to question editorial
staff performance. Clearly, double-duty job descriptions requiring creation of high-quality content for
magazines and websites are pushing editors to new limits. If anything, top brass must be more tuned
in to the possibility that productivity breaking points may already have been reached.
Meanwhile, editorial managers also should be monitoring efficiency. This requires documentation in the
form of quantitative reports. Information derived is useful for internal supervision purposes. Two
areas of efficiency worth tracking are editorial travel and pages written per editor. Most B2B editors
apparently may not have much of a travel budget these days. In fact, even before the current
economic situation, some staffs were always chained to their desks. The point is that even more than
in the past, editorial managers must prove that every dollar devoted to field trips is well spent.
Information for travel performance analysis can be pulled from properly-constructed editorial expense
vouchers. Quarterly reports should show total travel days as well as average days per month per
editor. There is a separate calculation along the above lines for the editor-in-chief. This tabulation
indicates the degree to which travel is a staff-wide activity.
Another calculation should break down travel days in terms of grass roots visits as opposed to industry
conventions. Next, there is a "city spread" consideration. Sometimes you discover that on the surface
an editorial staff engages in extensive travel; however, such travel actually takes in a limited number
of cities. Lastly, your editorial expense vouchers must provide space for staff to itemize the number of
editorial pages or website reports generated via field work.
Pages written per editor also could be documented on a quarterly basis, even if you have just one
staff member reporting to you. If you believe in byline acknowledgement, it's easy to identify who
wrote what. In order for this report to have meaning, you need pre-established expectations for the
quantity of feature material per month from each staff member. You also need specific standards
pertaining to website content delivery. The number of hours spent per week per staff engaged in
website updates is bound to multiply as emphasis on original content increases. Ability to translate
this activity into pages per day per editor will become a necessity.
14 ways to put top value into your editorial research
One of the most important values B2B can deliver to its readers and advertisers is high-quality editorial
research. High quality does not necessarily mean that you hire the most expensive research service to
conduct a national study for you . . . although quality certainly is implied when you use outside
agencies. What high quality does mean is that you are addressing a topic of some importance, that
you asked significant questions, that you obtained a decent response and that your conclusions were
highly instructive to readers.
Editorial Solutions frequently focuses on editorial research during in-house workshops. Here are 14
ideas usually addressed in detail at such sessions:
(1) Once you've established the focus of a major research project, seek input on the questionnaire
from your readers.
(2) Follow the established principles of making a questionnaire easy to answer.
(3) Random sampling is for the birds. Make sure your respondent selection process is precise.
(4) Be wary of questionnaire length. When a questionnaire is especially complex, offer an incentive to
(5) Establish a written data-gathering timetable and stick to it.
(6) Plan on conducting some personal interviews so you can confirm whether the tabulations you are
seeing actually make sense.
(7) Beware of interpreting results based on straight averages.
(8) You don't need a high return quantitatively if you can draw a high-quality response.
(9) When you write the story based on survey response, interpret rather than recite.
(10) Proofread your charts and insist on seeing a final color key.
(11) Don't be guilty of publishing research that has no foundation.
(12) If your industry is hot on consumer research, go for it. The exploitation value will be super!
(13) Variety is the spice of editorial research. You can mix in-depth reports with single-page mini-polls.
(14) Plan on running research results at least monthly in your magazine and on your website.
Editorial Solutions, Inc.