Keep Your E-News in Fighting Shape!

In this post, editorial management consultant Howard Rauch with Editorial Solutions Inc. gives you the practical advice you need to ensure your e-news content stands out from the rest.

When competitive analysis of e-news content becomes a regular event, sites that regularly go the extra mile will excel.  However, there are many poorly executed packages that surely will be nailed to the wall as the conflict heats up.

For those of you striving to keep your e-news in fighting shape, here are some tips you may wish to incorporate into your delivery.  The advice is based on preliminary results of my Phase II 50-site e-news study now in progress.  To date, I have reviewed 38 sites involving 457 posts.

(1)  E-newsletter lead article must reflect evidence of enterprise. Focus on a hot issue and gather high-value direct quotes from at least five sources.

(2)  Characterize your e-newsletter package. One site describes each edition as containing the “Top Ten Stories” from the previous week.  Another site focuses a weekly package of five to seven articles on a specific topic.  These practices are as opposed to the usual offering of a broad assortment of unrelated items.  Contentwise, there’s nothing wrong with the latter approach.  You just don’t stand out from the crowd.

(3) “Long” embedded links offer a more compelling reason to click through. The typical approach seems to be links of three to five words.  Instead, some sites use full-sentence links to attract visits.

(4)  Include some original thinking in tease copy linking to outsourced news. I’ve seen this idea executed only once in a total of 88 sites reviewed since last year.  This is a case where a daily e-newsletter’s package always consists of linking to posts appearing in daily newspapers or items churned out by wire services.  For selected blurbs, the editor includes his interpretation of how the development in question impacts his readers.  Copy is set in can’t-be-missed red type.

Now here are a couple of practices where improvement is warranted:

(1)  Avoid “un-news” headlines, especially in convention-oriented articles. This glitch obviously is a carry-over from uncorrected print habits.  The test of a good headline is that it reflects the author’s investigative effort.  Instead, I continue to see a parade of  “Association X announces plans for upcoming show” or “Conference sponsor Y expects big turnout at Chicago annual” or “Convention program Y will address several critical issues.”   What these heads have in common, aside from the obvious flaws, is that they could have been written without consulting a single source.

(2)  Don’t abuse your byline privilege. E-news articles that carry bylines are supposed to reflect the presence of enterprise reporting.  Instead, I continue to come across sites where staff members take bylines on obvious rewrites of submitted press announcements.

Generally speaking, my Phase II sample seems to be in better fighting shape than Phase I (results of which were reported last year in ASBPE’s Editor’s Notes November/December issue). However, e-news execution could be much better.  For example, of the 457 articles examined, 261 — 57.3% — reflected no enterprise.  Meanwhile, 152 articles – 33% — burdened readers with parades of extra-long sentences.

Do you have any additional tips for keeping e-news content in fighting shape?

(Note:  Final results of my Phase II study should be posted by late December on my twitter site:

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