Competitive Analysis 101: 25 Qualitative Factors for Comparisons, Part 2
In part 1 of this article, I covered the first 13 of 25 qualitative factors in my competitive scoring system. Here are the remaining 12.
- Contents page. Do headings go beyond conventional labels such as “Features” and “Departments”? Are photos accompanied by newsy captions, not just the page number? Do department listings consist of the logo plus an informative blurb?
- Movers and shakers. There should be evidence that the magazine has an excellent relationship with top executives at major corporations and associations. One signal that this relationship exists is an ongoing series of question-and-answer interviews with major players conducted by senior editors.
- News format. In a well-designed news section, headline sizes and column widths vary, and sidebars and screened boxes of copy are used. By contrast, a poorly designed news section will have a “desktop” look with type running from one column to the next.
- Repetitive sources. When analysis shows that editors quote the same sources in almost every issue, this factor earns zero points. A variation on this flaw is “source overkill.” This occurs when the same sources are quoted frequently in different articles appearing in a single issue.
- Reference value. This is a two-part consideration based on the presence of original research plus consistent use of infographic elements. The latter include such devices as charts, graphs, diagrams, formulas, and sidebars, with checklist or grid formats or step-by-step photo sequences. At least 20% of all pages carrying editorial content should use infographics. That can be difficult when a contributing author provides no graphics. Here it becomes necessary to reshape a portion of the copy into an interesting all-type grid.
- Advertiser driven. Is the magazine written for its advertisers more than its readers? This factor receives a zero when editorial features and news offer minimal information value to a publication’s prime readers. The deficiency is much more obvious when most sources quoted are vendors rather than end-users.
- Cover story. Does it involve in-depth, highly-relevant coverage? Or is the cover based more on the fact that it involved the best photography the editors could acquire.
- Back-of-book. Do the editors take this section seriously? If so, there should be an absence of typos, “endorsement language,” label heads, photo goofs, and other possible shortcomings.
- Advisory board. The board members should be listed on the masthead or in some other prominent location, and should include recognized authorities.
- Balanced content. There should be a good balance between departments and features, and little or no coverage of topics with limited reader interest. Sometimes, especially in standard size publications, poor balance stems from an ill-advised decision to focus almost the entire feature section on one topic.
- Targeted material. An excess of content not tailored to your audience, and which could have appeared as-is in dozens of publications serving other industries, receives a zero score.
- Last page. How is the editorial page facing the inside back cover used? Many publishers have made the most of the last page by reserving it for an exciting department or column. Others have used it as a dumping ground for classified ads, the advertiser index, or the tail-end of stories.
Now that you have all 25 factors, it’s time to score your publication. Here’s how: Each factor can earn between zero and two points, for a maximum total score of 50 points. A zero score reflects either poor execution or absence from the issue of the factor being scrutinized.
An acceptable total score falls between 32 and 36 points. Scores exceeding 40 points are exceptional. If your final score falls below 25 points, your publication is vulnerable and probably needs an editorial overhaul.
Coming next week: Common online news hurdles, Part I
Previously in this series