Feature Writing Completion Should Be Measured Against Goals
The evaluation of your staff’s editorial productivity requires access to a variety of quantitative data. Are you serious about tracking performance and establishing reasonable goals for your editors and writers? If so, there are two reports you should put together. One is an editorial travel analysis, which I have covered previously. The other is my topic here, a feature story completion study.
Feature article completion reports should be issued every six months. Information is gathered via monthly reviews where you count accurately—in pages or inches—each staff member’s contribution.
For accuracy, you must have set expectations for the quantity of feature material per month from each staff member. For example, if you expect an associate editor of a standard-size (versus a tabloid-size) magazine to deliver eight or nine pages of feature material per month, you have cause to wonder if the editor’s output for three of the previous six months is only two pages.
Another item you should calculate for this report is the percentage of feature material freelance writers contribute. If freelance contribution exceeds 20% of total feature story output on a magazine that purportedly is staff written, an explanation is needed.
Of course, there often are good reasons why a staff member is lagging behind in feature quota. So be fair. Perhaps you, as the assigning editor gave a staff member a couple of lemons to track down, or your instructions were inadequate. Or you had cutbacks in your editorial budget for a given month and had to kill several staff-written articles due to space considerations. Definitely keep this latter factor in mind when you start doing feature counts.
Another possible factor: If you compare two magazines where editorial budgets are equal, but one has an art/production person doing layout and the other requires staff editors to do all layout, you could accept a lower quantity of feature output from the latter group of editors. Among other things, of course, you may need to adjust your initial contribution per editor to allow for unexpected contingencies.
Advantages of charting quantitative feature performance are numerous. Occasionally, you also should try a total staff productivity analysis. Here you document all forms of writing—feature, back-of-book, news, etc.—per editor. Also remember that at the time you initially establish feature goals, writing is a single component of a multi-task job description.
Additional performance analysis guidance is offered in my book, Get Serious About Editorial Management. Chapter 1 covers goal setting, travel tracking, and digital workload challenges. Chapter 4 warns against “management by adjectives.” Also covered at length: the best approaches to creating tailored evaluation forms.