Competitive Editorial Analysis 101: The Enemy Is Us
Earlier in this series, I described an eight-factor e-news editing test that should be applied during competitive analysis projects. Warning: that collection of caveats is merely the tip of the snafu iceberg. And in many cases, you are your own worst enemy.
Take timeliness, for example. Needless to say (I hope), the news you post each day should be of very recent vintage. Yet there are many “news” sites where the latest news posts are in fact weeks and sometimes months old.
And then it never fails: some news editor forgot to archive or update prominent front-page coverage of an “upcoming” conference that actually concluded weeks ago. Worse still, during online media reviews, I often bump into sites where “news” is largely made up of reprinted promotional announcements.
Perhaps the above missteps are not rampant, so enough said. But now let’s consider a flagrant glitch that competitors can exploit: baseless claims of exclusivity. At a time when so-called gurus are calling for increased editorial support, staff is struggling to meet dual online and print deadlines. When asked whether they are pursuing a clearly hot industry development, editors respond that they don’t have staff support to dig behind the scenes in their own investigations. Instead, they say, their only viable option is to rewrite press releases and other canned news sources.
In many cases perhaps, apparent editorial weakness stays unexploited in competitive analyses because all editorial staffs serving a specific industry are in the same boat. Editorial Solutions Inc. consistently sees evidence of that during “like-item” news studies. Instead of exclusive news, competing sites often post coverage of the same events with embarrassing duplication in terms of angles chosen and sources quoted.
Think Like an Editor
Here’s the point you should take away from this discussion: If you’re conducting a thorough competitive analysis involving a tough competitor, look for evidence of exploitable editorial faults. For instance, convention coverage poses the true test whereby competitors should be able to document exclusivity. Who did the best job of interviewing program speakers rather than writing a story based on a PR handout? Who sponsored a newsworthy after-hours event? Who polled end-users for one or more round-up articles?
Always remember that exclusivity and enterprise go hand in hand. Be sure to state clearly when the writer gathered exclusive information either during a telephone interview or an e-mail exchange. Such declarations are missing from online news stories more often than not. So even if enterprise was involved while gathering exclusive quotes, readers could just as well assume that comment was extracted from PR announcements. If you go to the trouble of gathering your own exclusive quotes, say so!
Coming next week: Competitive analysis format diversity.