Phase II E-News Study Confirms Shortfall of High-Enterprise Content

In editorial consultant, Howard Rauch’s previous post– Keep Your E-News in Fighting Shape – he suggested several ways to upgrade package quality.  In this follow up he says why he thinks the preliminary results of his latest e-news study confirm the reality that many of us do fall short of quality expectations.

On-line gurus – seemingly countless in number – remind us that the competitive media circle has enlarged dramatically.  Result:  It is urgent that B2B e-news sites consistently deliver content that clearly is exclusive and constantly reflects enterprise.

When completed, my latest e-news study will have assessed content delivery of 50 sites.  As of this writing, I have reviewed 46, so there is enough to go on in terms of conclusions.  (Note: Results of a previous Editorial Solutions e-news study were covered in the November/December 2009 issue of ASBPE’S Editor’s Notes 556K PDF; available to ASBPE members only.)

Elusive End-User Input. New in Phase II is a focus on the number of “end-user” quotes gathered.  We know that in many cases, end-user input is elusive.  Easier to obtain are quotes from vendors, associations, and government sources.

Importance of gathering end-user quotes is readily acknowledged as evidence of editorial enterprise.  However well we delivered on this promise with print media, on-line coverage requires a higher achievement level.  So . . . of the 537 articles considered, average number of end-user quotes = 1.9.  If you read between the lines on that statistic, you understand that many articles reviewed never used end-user quotes.

Meanwhile, 282 articles – 52.7% — reflected no evidence of enterprise.  (Note: “Evidence” includes article references indicating that there was an exchange of information – either via phone or e-mail – between editor and source.)  Average number of embedded links per article = 1.1.  Somewhat disappointing, this average was restrained by the number of sites – 14 – fielding e-news packages containing 10-30 posts with a grand total of 1-4 links.  Finally, 223 of the 537 articles posted burdened visitors via unacceptable Fog Index scores.

Enterprise Shortfall. There are some additional findings that should interest those of you who are competitive analysis practitioners:

  • The move to multi-channel news sites was heralded as a smart technique designed to generate added revenue.  Be that as it may, several sites clearly are having problems filling the various pipelines with timely news breaks.
  • “Like-item” analysis can be very revealing in terms of enterprise shortfall.  This analysis refers to the way in which competitors cover an identical event.  The two most common outcomes:  (1) No competitor could claim bragging rights.  Both parties used the same angle and identical quotes obviously provided in the PR announcement; (2) One party prevailed dramatically via a practice of obtaining exclusive direct quotes for each e-news article.
  • This may be pipe-dream thinking on my part, but I had several occasions to wonder why “cloning” is so evident.  On their sites, some editors make no bones about indicating that the same article “appeared” (notice the past tense) in the organization’s magazine.  Some day, an aggressive competitor will realize that cloned content is a target.  And then, watch out!

Finally, a few words about how each e-news package was scored.  For those who did not read the Phase I report, eight evaluation factors were considered:

  1. Urgency;
  2. evidence of enterprise;
  3. number of direct quotes;
  4. words wasted in the intro before a key story point is reached;
  5. Fog Index grade level;
  6. average sentence length;
  7. article word count;  and
  8. number of embedded links.

Maximum average score possible per site is 100 points.  When I combine current results of Phase I and Phase II analysis – with 96 sites reviewed – only 21 earned scores of 60.0 or higher.  Another analysis yardstick is the Fix-It Alert.  This indicates the percent of total article factors reviewed that required improvement.  To illustrate, if a ten-article e-news package is reviewed, total number of factors assessed = 80.  If 20 of those are designated as below par, FIA = 80/20 = 25.0%.

Armed with that explanation, what is the minimum FIA you believe is acceptable?  So far, only six e-news packages have managed to earn FIA scores below 20.0%.  I don’t want to talk about those sites that are buried in e-news goofs to the tune of 40.0% or higher.

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