No Matter How Painful, Editorial Productivity Should Be Analyzed

By Howard Rauch

Probably nothing good can be said about B2B’s editorial productivity dilemma. Tales of staff cutbacks in the face of heavier workloads are recounted almost every day. Under the circumstances, engagement in performance analysis can’t be delayed.

In the past, the prospect of productivity review dismayed many editors. The long-standing objection has been that quantitative values cannot be assigned to qualitative work. That attitude is past its prime. Today there are benefits to be accrued when you are able to document how long it takes to tackle the daunting task of generating content for magazines and websites.

Having said that, I want to describe a basic approach to performance analysis:

  • Each staff member should keep performance data for one or two months.
  • During that time period, document how long it takes you to engage in each of six job categories:

    (1) original writing;

    (2) editing the work of others;

    (3) travel;

    (4) production;

    (5) detail/administrative stuff like meetings, reading e-mail, general correspondence, training, interviewing job candidates, article recruitment, filing, etc.;

    (6) supervision (depending upon your position) of staff or freelance.

  • Keep separate tabulations for time spent on print vs. web.
  • Your target is an estimate of the number of days each task requires.
  • Within the framework of a given month, start with the assumption that total time spent should be equivalent to 20-22 days. Undoubtedly, your calculations will drift beyond that level.
  • To facilitate your analysis, create a time-management form that brackets time into 15-minute periods.
  • In addition to the above documentation, keep a telephone log showing time spent on incoming calls. Categorize the nature of these calls.
  • If your day load total does rise to a scary level, look for possible shortcuts. For example, a recent analysis involving a senior editor found that an unreasonable effort was being devoted to editing single manuscripts. Another time, an associate editor was spending a frightening number of hours per week surfing the web for story material. The production process often is an area where work duplication abounds. The web clearly seems to be a place where limited staffs are being asked to fulfill overly-ambitious quantitative requirements. For instance, it’s unclear whether jumping from weekly to daily e-news updating has been accompanied by necessary workload adjustments.

This is probably enough about performance analysis for you to mull in one sitting. Once an editorial staff has a realistic handle on quantitative achievement, you have a more useful way to update top management on the exceptional value you now deliver every day!

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 howard@editsol.com.

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