Feature Analysis Helps Detect Productivity Blips
Instructive evaluation of editorial productivity requires access to a variety of quantitative data. Consider, for instance, the data you need to determine whether staff and other writers are producing an acceptable number of features. What’s required is to go through the previous six print and/or online issues and count accurately—in pages, inches, or words—each author’s feature contribution.
If your publication’s authors are consistently identified with a byline, it’s easy to identify who wrote what. Otherwise, you will have to match past assignment logs with each issue being studied so that you can determine each author’s output.
In order for this data to have meaning, you must have pre-established expectations covering feature material quantity per month from each staff member. For example, if you expect an associate editor of a standard format magazine (as opposed to tabloid size) to deliver eight to nine pages of feature material each month, you have cause to wonder if output for three of the previous six months is two pages.
Another type of data you should be tracking when doing this report is the percentage of feature material contributed by freelance writers. If freelance contribution exceeds 20% of total feature story output on a magazine that is purportedly staff written, an explanation is required. 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 doing feature counts.
Another possible consideration: If you compare two magazines where editorial budgets are equal, but one has an art or production person doing layout and the other requires staff editors to do all layout, you could expect a smaller monthly page count from the latter group of writers.
The advantages of charting quantitative feature performance are numerous. Occasionally, you should try a total productivity analysis of your staff. Here you document all forms of writing—feature, back-of-the-book, news, etc.— per staff member.
Ideally, you will compile and issue these productivity reports every six months. This will help you identify developing trends and avoid unpleasant surprises at a later date.