Grading b-to-b digital news performance

Many fall short on enterprise, link usage, end-user input

Grading b-to-b newsletter performanceby Howard Rauch, president , Editorial Solutions Inc.

Most b-to-b e-news articles easily earn passing grades when evaluated on the basis of addressing high-impact topics, but once past that high point, delivery slides downhill. The biggest snag is absence of enterprise.  And when it comes to basic execution, link usage and end-user input appear to be elusive qualities.

These observations continue to be confirmed in e-news studies conducted by Editorial Solutions Inc. The initial project, launched two years ago, examined collective delivery of 446 articles by 50 b-to-b sites.  Phase II — another 50- site review covering 580 articles — was completed early last year. Phase III is just past the review mid-point with 26 sites having been examined.  Even at this stage, need for improvement is clearly reflected.

Project methodology calls for examining at least 10 e-news articles posted on the review date — usually tied to publication of a weekly or daily newsletter. Scoring considers execution of eight factors: (1) impact; (2) evidence of enterprise; (3) direct quote presence; (4) fast-paced intro; (5) Fog Index grade level; (6) average sentence length; (7) word count; and (8) embedded link usage.

So far in Phase III, of the 260 articles posted by 26 sites, 139, that is 51.2 percent, miss the boat on enterprise.  “Evidence” reflects the desire of article authors to go beyond routine announcements. In their articles, writers point out that information was obtained during a telephone interview or e-mail exchange. Of the 1,026 articles collectively assessed during Phase I and Phase II reviews, 66 percent reflected no enterprise.  Especially bothersome were those articles where editors took bylines on obvious press release rewrites.

Returning to Phase III findings, 110 articles (42.3 percent) stymied readership via high Fog Index scores (grade levels  exceeding 13.0),  and 89 articles (34.3 percent) had average sentence lengths exceeding 25 words.The new Phase III element is an introduction of a simple calculation seeking to describe success or failure in terms of link usage and end-user input.  Here’s how it works.  First, let’s assume that each e-news article posted should provide at least one link.  Thus,  if the 260 Phase III articles followed suit,  collective link usage would total 260.Now, measure “Link Visibility” by dividing total articles posted into total links used. In this case, the calculation of 260/260 gives us an LV of 1.0. In fact, the actual Phase III calculation was 294/260 = 1.1. Seems like the target was reached, but appearances are deceiving. Why?  Because 184 of the 294 links were provided by just five sites. So the calculation for that group was 184/50 = 3.7 – excellent!  LV for the remaining 13 sites using links was 0.8.  Meanwhile, another eight sites provided no links for any of the 80 articles posted.

We can apply the same process to measuring success in obtaining direct quotes from end-users.  For Phase III, so far, 20 sites posted 200 articles that collectively included 76 end-user quotes.  This gives you an “End-User Presence” for those sites of 76/200 (total end-user quotes divided by total articles posted) = 0.4.  The other six sites reviewed posted 60 articles that included zero end-user quotes.  EUP for the top five sites = 2.8.

Yes, editorial math sometimes isn’t easy to follow. But at the very least, the previous LV and EUP exercises suggest b-to-b needs to establish better targets for embedded link and end-user input than currently exist.

Finally, here’s another indication of why b-to-b e-news delivery must seek a higher value level: Of the 126 sites reviewed during Phases I-III studies, only 24 managed a score of 60 or higher (out of a possible 100 points). Highest score achieved 72.9.  Lowest score achieved 36.5.

The previous scoring recitation obviously suggests a need for editorial quality upgrade.  Perhaps what is not so obvious is the reality that quantitative claims could work against laggard sites during competitive analysis reviews. Digital match-ups have been rare, but that’s bound to change soon.

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a b-to-b consultancy specializing in projects, addressing e-news evaluation, editorial performance measurement and competitive analysis. ES has been in business for 23 years.  Before launching ES, Rauch was vice president/editorial director of Gralla Publications, a 20-magazine b-to-b operation. He recently completed “Get Serious Competitive Editorial Analysis,” a 50-page manual based on actual b-to-b projects.

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