Your e-news package: If it is broke, fix it!

ASBPE’s Ethics Chair Howard Rauch boils bad e-news sites down to the numbers.

Some interesting disputes involving creation of original e-news content vs. heavy reliance on the aggregating/curating approach occurred during the past few weeks.  My view: The latter approach, while apparently considered the way of the media world, ultimately is not the best practice.  On the other hand, that alternative probably is the more convenient way of delivering an informative e-news package.

Both approaches do require creative effort.  Meanwhile, however, there is a third contingent in the B2B field that continues to plod a non-creative path.  This involves heavy emphasis on no-enterprise, straight rewrite of incoming press announcements.  In many cases, the approach, as we know, is not a matter of choice.  Resources to do a better job simply are not available.

The unfortunate result:  Too many e-news packages that clearly are broke and do need a lot of fixing. For example, consider the accompanying evaluation from my recently completed Phase II, 50-site e-news study.  This ten-article package finished worst of show, accumulating 36.7 out of a possible 100 points.

For those of you who missed previous explanations of what the above numbers mean, here’s a quick refresher:  IMP = impact; ENT = evidence of enterprise; QUO = number of direct quotes; LEAD = number of words wasted before key story point is reached; FI = Fog Index grade level; ASL = average sentence length; WDS = number of words; LINKS = number of embedded links.

The Fix-It Alert (FIA) calculation shows how many items out of the 80 assessed require obvious improvement.  This real-life FIA of 56.3% is the lowest I’ve seen out of 100 e-news packages reviewed to date (including Phase I and Phase II studies).  Visually speaking, the boldface clusters immediately indicate major delivery shortfalls.  Worst execution ratings are earned by enterprise and basic editing skill (the latter reflected by FI and ASL data).

Unfortunately the above example is hardly an exception.  Only six out the 100 sites managed FIA scores below 20.0%.  Another 41 sites earned faltering FIA scores of 40.0 percent or beyond.  Clearly, the reason most unacceptable performers don’t feel competitive pressure is because the opposition usually is not much better.

The need to raise our quality sites is urgent enough that it will be the lead item in a presentation I’ll deliver at ASBPE’S upcoming ethics webinar this May.  We have a terrific slate of speakers on the program.  The webinar was postponed this month due to an unexpected angioplasty procedure I had to endure.  By May, we will have even more pertinent developments to relay.  Hope you can attend!

Meanwhile, for additional comment on ethics and other editorial management matters, please follow me on Twitter:

2 thoughts on “Your e-news package: If it is broke, fix it!

  1. I like your analysis, Howard. The other equations that need to be done are open rates and click-throughs. This is really the “will the dogs eat the dogfood” test.
    You aren’t privvy to this data for any particular newsletter, but editors are (or should be). They need to study these numbers. If editors work in a multi-book company, then they need to benchmark themselves against company averages and the best-in-class.
    Also, do you analyze the number of items in each newsletter? I wonder if more or few items are the best approach. As well as frequency. I hear of newsletter fatigue on the part of recipients, but I have to wonder if content quality is the culprit, not frequency.
    By the way, I hope you are fully recovered from the angio. I wish you the best of health.

  2. Hi Jim:

    It is true that many editors must learn how to make more effective use of analytics. But first priority must go to the factor of content quality that you cite towards the end of your comment. Having just completed my second 50-site e-news study involving 583 articles, I found close to two-thirds of the posts reflected no enterprise. This reality parallels results of my first study — 50 sites, 446 articles — so we are far from being up to speed as far as quality goes (for reasons known to many of us).

    As far as number of items per e-newsletter, I have not researched this formally, but have a few impressions. (1) The typical site visitor will not read every single item . . . but documentation confirming this probably would not stop content generators from churning out 15 to 20 items per edition. (2) Items that do get read first receive attention thanks to well-written headlines. (3) Many sites that do turn our tons of stuff per day are aggregators rather than originators. (4) Some of the smart sites that post to daily e-newsletters keep quantity delivered on the low side — like 5-6 items at a shot rather than 15 or more. Result: Higher overall quality/originality.

    As for the angio, I was the beneficiary of the latest technique — insertion of tracking device via the wrist/radial artery. I was awake during the entire process, which has its down side when the doctor tells you — we have a problem we may not be able to solve, but we’ll try. Happy ending: they were able to clear all blockage.

    One more thought: Isn’t it too bad that when you and I (or others) have a follow-up, high-value discussion concerning a posted blog, there is not a routine process for flagging that activity on ASBPE’s home page? I have to look into that. The site is in final redesign phase.


    Howard R.

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