Competitive E-News Strategy In a Rat Race Environment

By Howard Rauch

How are some of us surviving in an e-news content environment that seems to be assuming rat race proportions? The situation is getting to be an old story: Publication Y’s competitor — Publication X — launches an e-newsletter, so Y follows suit. Who’ll staff this new project? Why the same people who edit Y’s magazine … what else? Then X goes twice a week. Y cannot be left behind. Then out of nowhere, competitor Z weighs in with a daily. What now for X and Y, especially since there’s no budget for added staff necessary to generate credible content on a multi-frequency basis?

The above scenario clearly suggests that in many X vs. Y competitive analysis evaluations, obvious e-news weaknesses will stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. So while there’s still time, you need to strengthen your position against any competitive assault. To this end, seek answers to the following three questions:

(1) Do I offer sufficient variety in every issue or has my content become predictable? One way to learn the truth is by running a source analysis based on breaking stories featured in e-newsletters during the past three months. You may find you are in a rut in terms of overusing convenient sources of information.

(2) Do I offer ample coverage of key topics? Are my competitors outdoing me where it counts in terms of reporting key developments? During one project, I came across a site with a “daily news” link that led visitors to a choice of nine hot topics. Yes, there may not be breaking news every day in each category. But the editors clearly had established target areas of information that had maximum site visitor appeal. Many of us lack this strategy. Instead, we publish whatever e-news happens to be available in order to fill space two or three times a week.

(3) How do site visitors rate your current e-news coverage? You don’t need a shotgun e-blast survey to get decent feedback. If you’ve got an editorial board of ten or more authoritative members, sound them out. Is available e-content clearly superior to what had been available in print sections? In what areas of coverage have your competitors surpassed you?

While all this analysis is ongoing, start setting goals for improving e-news content delivery in terms of eight areas I’ve identified in previous columns [Editor’s note: See here, here, and here.]:

(1) urgency;
(2) enterprise;
(3) direct quotes;
(4) fast-paced leads;
(5) readability;
(6) brevity (particularly average sentence length);
(7) depth of coverage (word count);
(8) link usage.

Immediate improvements for factors (1) and (2) may take some doing. But you can turn over a new leaf quickly if categories (4), (5), (6) and (8) are not up to snuff.

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award. You can contact him directly at

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