Competitive Editorial Analysis 101: B2B News Needs More End-User Quotes
Writers and editors of B2B news need to pay more careful attention to the use of direct quotes from end users (that is, their target readers). While many trade publications excel at gathering comments from readers, just as many do poorly. Still others gather ample reader quotes, but mostly from advertisers and vendors, not end users. To fail to quote end-users in articles is to abandon the crucial competitive edge that end-user input provides.
Of course, everybody should know all about the need for end user visibility. But it has never translated well into real world practice. Even before the Internet arrived, competitive analysis projects conducted by Editorial Solutions Inc. (ESI) reflected insufficient end-user presence.
The situation has only gotten worse in the digital era. The underlying cause is that editorial staffs have been increasingly swamped by the challenge of producing both digital and print content. E-newsletters, which began as once-a-week affairs, mushroomed into twice a week, then daily, and even twice daily. In this environment, it became expedient to skew content in favor of announcements and quotes received from vendors, organizations, and government sources.
Seven years ago, ESI launched an annual e-news study aiming to keep B2B editors and publishers aware of best practices. In subsequent annual e-news studies, I assumed an acceptable target average of at least one end-user quote per article posted. In the most recently completed annual study, the seventh so far, the huge majority of sites still fall short of this goal.
The data presented in the following charts encompasses 500 articles from 50 B2B news sites. As you can see, the 50 sites collectively managed only 0.4 end-user quotes per article, well short of the 1.0 goal. The 10 sites that performed best overall in my study did not do much better, registering just 0.5 end-user quotes per article. The lowest scoring 10 sites, meanwhile, were middling as well, with 0.4 end-user quotes per article. (For data geeks who want to look at the end-user quote results for all 50 sites, I’ve included a table to play with at the end of this article. Click on the column headings to change the sort order.)
The presence of quotes alone may not indicate much enterprise, by the way. In various ESI projects involving “like-item” analysis (where the same industry news is covered), competitors often used identical “furnished quotes” from press releases in their coverage. Apparently, staffs had neither time nor inclination to seek exclusive comment.
Scoring e-news presence for competitive purposes is a complicated process. In many ways, the industry know-how of editors and writers is paramount. For instance, two competing publications may both use plenty of end-user quotes. But if one is not finding and quoting the most informed and expert sources and the other is, you have uncovered a clear competitive advantage.
The same analysis can be applied to the quotes used in the regular columns of chief editors. Do the sources they come up with suggest the editor is just an observer rather than an insider?
That’s just a taste of what’s expected of you when judging the editorial strengths and weaknesses involving direct quotes.
In our next installment, we will review eight editorial factors most likely to trip up writers and editors of online publications. I’ve already started applying a new scoring system to all online competitive analysis projects. While too early to draw conclusions, I can reveal that none of the entries has reached or passed the minimum target score.
Previously in this series
Table I: Quotes per Article from 50 B2B Websites
|Site by Ranking||All Quotes||End-User Quotes|