Three Common Failures in Online News: Are You At Fault?

Howard RauchFor most B2B publishers, electronically delivered news content is becoming an increasingly important part of their output. The potential rewards are substantial. In theory, any B2B e-news package consistently delivering relevant, high-enterprise, fast-paced, exclusive content should dominate its competitive space. But the evidence suggests that few if any e-news staffs are up to this challenge.

I’ve come to this conclusion over the past two years as a result of two studies I’ve conducted of 100 sites and more than 1,000 e-news articles. The studies focused on B2B e-news from well-known trade publishers and included totally staff-written content as well as mixes of aggregated and staff-written material.  Early results from my third 50-site study of e-news delivery confirm that high quality remains in short supply.

What accounts for this poor showing? Of the eight common factors I’ve identified, three in particular stand out:

1. Lack of enterprise.  Most industry bloggers insist that content generated should be exclusive—information unavailable elsewhere.  This distinction, which should seem obvious, is a key to way to score points in marketing presentations involving competitive match-ups. But in the 1,000 articles I reviewed, 65% of them showed no evidence of enterprise. That is, I found no indication in the article that an actual telephone or e-mail exchange occurred between editor and source.

2. Longwinded sentences. A key to readability, especially online, is to keep sentences short and to the point. But in many stories I’ve reviewed, the authors show a fondness for verbose and wandering sentences. In too many cases, parades of 35- and 40-word specimens were the rule rather than the exception.

3. Insufficient links. The internet is by its nature an interactive medium. That makes it all the more perplexing how rarely B2B e-news includes embedded links. The typical usage when links do appear is on the short side—three to five words.  Higher-scoring sites in my studies use longer links—sometimes full sentences—to reflect a value that encourages visitors to click through.

If you’re responsible for e-news, how does your site rate in these areas? And, perhaps more importantly, how does it compare with that of your competitors?

For a better-informed handle on whether your content is best of show, try a “Like-Item Analysis.” This exercise involves a comparison of articles posted by you and the opposition that cover the same or similar events. In many cases, the results may reveal that neither you nor your competitors can claim bragging rights.

You may not be pleased with this outcome. But an honest assessment of how your e-news ranks is the first step to improving it.

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm serving B2B publishers.  He recently completed Get Serious About Competitive Editorial Analysis, a 50-page manual.  It offers a detailed, quantitative system for assessing the competitiveness of editorial content. Three hours of consulting are included in the purchase price. For more details, e-mail or call (201) 569-7714.