Lack of Enterprise Is Still Biggest Challenge for Online News
Did you take time out yet to apply my latest B2B study methodology to your current e-news performance? If not, don’t delay. For most publications, the need for improvement is crystal clear, especially where enterprise reporting is concerned. Here’s some background explaining how you might proceed.
In my ongoing study of 50 online news sites, the results so far are discouraging. This year’s study features a totally revised eight-factor scoring format. What’s dramatically different is up-front explanation of how to immediately score your strengths and weaknesses. The ability to earn a passing grade hinges on basic editing skills and a high level of enterprise reporting.
This study version includes two factors designed to gauge enterprise reporting.
One factor is graded using three-category rating: High/low/zero. The highest weight is earned by sites where editors have directly interviewed most sources rather than relying on PR announcement rewrite.
The other factor measures the degree to which editorial staff consistently connect with end-user sources. An end-user visibility (EUV) average of at least one end-user quoted per article is considered acceptable.
(Actually there is another factor that could be considered—exclusivity—which I chose to ignore this time around. Why? Past studies observed an inability on the part of online staffs to achieve even the lowest level of exclusivity.)
If there is any doubt about the challenges, consider the data provided so far by 17 sites (my ultimate sample target is 50 sites; I review 10 articles per site).
- Of 170 articles assessed, 147 fall into the “low or below” category for enterprise.
- Even though there are many ways to achieve an EUV of 1.0 or higher, only one site of the 17 studied reached the 1.0 target.
Each of these two enterprise factors could earn a possible high score of 20 points. Each of the six remaining factors can earn a maximum score of 10 points. When weighed together, the target eight-factor goal is at least 60 out of the possible 100 points.
Of the 17 sites reviewed so far, only three earned a passing grade of 60 points or more. Inability to achieve the maximum score on each of the six editing-basics factors was a key stumbling block. Here are the challenges posed by those six factors:
- Impact. As many articles as possible should be relevant to the broadest readership.
- Story-telling headlines. The use of high-interest numbers gives an important quantitative flavor to headlines, but few sites use them.
- News-first intros. Especially annoying are those articles that begin with the name, title, and affiliation of the quoted source. Often this practice results in a batch of pointless prose before the real story begins.
- Sentence flow analysis. Average sentence length of 20 words is best. If the average exceeds 25 words, breaking up those long sentences is a must. Of the 170 articles reviewed to date, 68, or 40%, could have been defogged.
- Word count. You need at least 500 to 750 words of copy to give a semblance of depth to articles. In fact, to a certain extent, longer articles often reflect enterprise reporting flavor.
- Link visibility. I follow a formula calling for at least one link per article posted. This goal was reached by most sites.
If you decide to tackle this scoring project, please touch base with me to discuss how to calculate enterprise presence. There are some complications involved. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (201) 569-7714.