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In search of digital editing performance standards - Howard Rauch

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Howard Rauch's presentation from the Sept. 23, 2010, ASBPE Webinar, "Enhancing Your Career in the B2B Press"

Howard Rauch's presentation from the Sept. 23, 2010, ASBPE Webinar, "Enhancing Your Career in the B2B Press"

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  • 1. In search of digital editing performance standards Presented by Howard Rauch, President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
  • 2.
    • “Our average workload per week is up from 45-50 hours to 60 hours. Work activity doesn’t stop when you leave the office. At night I will check my e-mails on my phone and then answer messages requiring priority response.”
    • Editor-in-chief
  • 3.
    • “Right now, I am up to answering e-mail message #131. I know your message is down the list somewhere, and I will get to it as soon as possible.”
    • Harried Editor-In-Chief
  • 4.
    • “ We don’t have the people, time or technology to handle more projects (like webinars). When the technology becomes available, I expect to be asked to take on more projects. At one point, digital editions were carbon copies of the regular print issue. But now, we are being asked to create original copy for digital issues.”
    • Executive Editor
  • 5.
    • “ Web involvement has allowed me to build my own brand by engaging in social media discussions. The investment of time has clearly paid off. Editorial peers are not eager to follow suit, no matter what the benefits, because of time involvement. My perspective is that social media should be used for conversation and relationship building purposes, not so much for pushing out promotional messages. The number of sources to be monitored has grown tremendously. When our industry was smaller, there were perhaps 20 sites that needed to be checked out. Today, I have feeds from 270 blogs and try to get to all of them every day.”
    • Amazing Editor-in-Chief
  • 6.
    • “We probably are producing 20 percent more content, so something has to slide. I don’t have time to do big picture stuff. Our editors still are traveling, but not as many people as in the past are budgeted to cover industry events.”
    • Editor-in-Chief
  • 7.
    • “Everything we do now is at the cost of something else. In digital’s case, it’s time I am spending on a new product, so I’m not spending as much time on the old product (print).”
    • Editor-in-Chief
  • 8.
    • “ Ad revenue is non-existent for the digital products we have going on already, much less the new ones we’ve been asked to develop. I’ve voiced my fear we’re doing too much, and I’ve been told that our page views are outstanding, so we should simply keep going, because it’s paying off. Meanwhile, my sanity and the sanity of our one other editor is quickly slipping away.”
    • Editor-in-Chief
  • 9.
    • “ Digital workload definitely can become inflated when publishers are trying to push too many projects for too long a trial period. Our editors don’t spend time on stuff that is supposed to generate advertising but doesn’t work. Our major concern is giving readers what they want as opposed to forcing content down their throats.”
    • President/Group Editorial Director
  • 10.
    • “We’ve experienced the pile-on dilemma, but are slowly learning to be a little more hard nosed about pulling the plug on things that aren’t paying off, either in revenue or audience development.”
    • Vice President/Editorial
  • 11.
    • “ Webinars were a big hit at the outset . . . but impetus is slowing down. If we think a topic is important editorially, we still may present the information as a non-sponsored webinar. However, cases arise where an advertiser is interested in web exposure not necessarily focusing on his own product line. That’s when an editorially-focused webinar fills the need.”
    • On-line Editor
  • 12.
    • “ My prior role here was editorial manager of our reference guides and directories. So my responsibilities completely changed when I took the position as Online Editor in 2008. Currently, I work on three brand sites, four microsites, and two social networks in our group. We are implementing a new content management system this year that will improve workflow efficiency dramatically.”
    • On-line Editor
  • 13.
    • “ One real benefit we’ve seen from the on-line workload involves trade show coverage. We make it a priority to write up news immediately after events and get it online ASAP. This not only means we have the most current content, but when we return from the show, our work (at least as far as press event coverage goes) is essentially done. Our sales staffs make a point of sending the links to this ‘from the show’ coverage to our advertisers.”
    • Senior Vice President, Editorial
  • 14.
    • “ 2008 and 2009 changed business forever. We all took on more work (including management and marketing), so when I see that editorial has added eight days of work a month, I get concerned about how that message gets communicated or promoted throughout the industry. I believe the message is – workloads have increased for everyone, but how you use technology, resources, new media and your daily time determines the future.”
    • Senior Vice President, Publishing
  • 15. Performance Evaluation: Early Steps
    • Print productivity reviews examined time required to fulfill six job components: (1) original writing; (2) editing work of others; (3) production activity; (4) travel; (5) article recruitment; (6) miscellaneous administrative tasks.
    • Production was a major time-eater because of work duplication.
    • One early performance standard was number of pages written per day per editor.
  • 16. Performance Evaluation: Early Steps
    • Time studies were conducted within the framework of a 20-22-day work month.
    • In most cases, editors’ actual workload exceeded the established parameter.
    • Later on, with the advent of the Web, a seventh performance factor – on-line activity – was thrown into the mix.
    • Even then – preceding the days when B2B publishers launched their own sites – it was apparent that digital activity had strong time-eater potential.
    • For example, many editors – clearly charmed by the novelty of their new toy – spent an inordinate amount of time allegedly surfing for story leads. Time spent vs. actual copy generated totally was off the wall!
  • 17. Performance Evaluation in Today’s Digital Age
    • Digital editorial workloads piled up pretty fast. This trend was not necessarily offset by a decline in print workloads, although many so-called gurus might argue otherwise.
    • There was a clear need to attempt to quantify digital time, going beyond standard descriptions as “more” and “getting out of hand.”
    • Historically, typical editors resist quantifying workloads. The inability to do the deed in today’s environment will result in an ongoing parade of performance snafus.
  • 18. Moving Forward with Digital Reviews
    • The challenge to establish digital workload standards clearly is more complex than those posed by print.
    • With print, analysis was based on seven fairly well-defined work categories. With digital, there are at least a dozen components worth examining.
    • Last March, a pioneer attempt was made to get editors thinking more positively about the benefits of digital work quantification.
  • 19. Digital Performance Review Progress
    • Once a questionnaire was developed, ASBPE members were invited to participate in a pioneer performance project.
    • Sixteen editors completed questionnaires, after which they participated in a follow-up brainstorming session with Editorial Solutions president Howard Rauch.
    • Several more editors initially indicated interest in participating. However, once they saw that the questionnaire required giving careful thought to estimated time spent per task, they elected not to complete the survey.
  • 20. Digital Survey Findings
    • On a basis of 100 percent, the typical respondent devoted 60 percent of a typical week (or month) to print, 40 percent to digital.
    • E-newsletter workload has moved forward at a rapid pace. Several respondents (and other parties interviewed) have progressed rapidly from weekly frequency to two or three times per week . . . and then to daily and even twice daily.
    • Only two respondents reported availability of dedicated on-line editors. In many cases, it was apparent that conventional staffs operated in a more limited scope when it came to such activities as webinars, video, and establishment of a multi-contributor blogging activity.
  • 21. Major Digital Time-Eaters Identified
    • Survey participants were asked to list digital editing job components. Once that list was drawn up, a follow-up question required respondents to create another list, this one showing major time-eaters.
    • Topping the list was e-news involvement, which clearly could be sub-divided into three categories: (1) original writing; (2) editing work of others; (3) searching for story leads.
    • Second important time-eater was social media activity, which in some cases included blogging and monitoring of discussion forums.
  • 22. Major Time-Eaters Identified
    • Other time-eaters – shown here in descending order of involvement required – are posting/updating, production (including coding/sizing activity), webinars and videos, writing exclusive web-only features.
    • Further down the list were analytics review, digital magazine contributions and site redesign meetings. In a few cases, the latter category was considered to have nuisance value at best.
  • 23. Digital Analysis Procedure
    • Based on a 40-hour work week (or a 20-day work month), estimate the percent of time devoted to digital activity.
    • For the sake of argument, let’s say digital accounts for 50 percent of your weekly workload (20 hours).
    • Next, draw up your list of major digital time-eaters. Most likely, that list will parallel the findings previously noted in the pioneer study.
    • Now, take the first two categories on your time-eater list and attempt to establish hours required per week to fulfill each component.
    • One responding editor estimated ten hours per week to e-news editing/writing/searching and an additional 5-7 hours to all production responsibilities.
    • Do the math. Three to five hours remain to accomplish a multitude of other tasks. Thus, if your two prime time-eaters already have painted you into a corner in terms of performance potential, it’s time to consider what remedies are available.
  • 24. Digital Analysis Procedure
    • Your most accurate way to estimate time components is via filling out a time sheet arranged in 15-minute brackets.
    • Many editors say it’s impossible to do that because the typical workload schedule involves jumping in and out of multiple activities all day long.
    • If this is true, it’s time for you to find ways to control schedule hyper-activity.
    • A good reason for you to attempt this exercise now is that your future digital workload is likely to increase.
  • 25. Digital Analysis Recommendations
    • It is conceivable that when the dust settles, you may find that your alleged 20-hour digital time per week has morphed into a 25-30-hour (or longer) event.
    • Existing time allotted to digital may be sufficient to allow you to meet quantitative deadlines. But meeting qualitative standards is another matter, especially when it comes to e-news writing.
    • Many industry gurus think judgments about content excellence will be influenced by evidence of enterprise and exclusivity. Within the time frame available to you now, how well do you deliver on these requirements – compared to your toughest competitors? What would it take in terms of time for you to be assured bragging rights in head-to head confrontations?
  • 26. Monthly Workload estimate – editor-in-chief with 40/60 print/digital split
    • Web seminar development – 5 days
    • E-news writing – 3 days
    • Edit work of others – 1.5 days
    • Web exclusives – 1 day
    • Site updating – 1 day
    • Monitoring discussion forums – 0.5 days
  • 27. Monthly workload estimate – on-line editor with 10/90 print/digital split
    • E-news writing/production – 10-12 hours
    • Site updating – 8-10 hours
    • Archiving print issues – 4-6 hours
    • Webinar production – 4-6 hours
    • Video production – 4-6 hours
    • Social media monitoring – 1-2 hours
    • Web metrics/analytics analysis – 1-2 hours
    • Sponsor-supported projects – 1-2 hours
    • On-line exclusives – 1-2 hours
  • 28. Weekly workload estimate – editor-in-chief with 40/60 print/digital split
    • Monitoring social media and discussion forums + blogging activity – 10 hours
    • Original website content – 8-10 hours
    • Editing work of others – 5 hours
    • Updating/posting – 1 hour
    • Image searches – 1 hour
  • 29. Weekly workload estimate – editor-in-chief with 50/50 print/digital split
    • Site updating/CMS entry – 5-6 hours
    • Video production – 4 hours
    • On-line news coverage – 3 hours
    • On-line editing – 2.5 hours
    • Social media monitoring – 1.5 hours
    • Miscellaneous digital issues – 3 hours
  • 30. Weekly workload estimate – Editor-in-chief with 60/40 print/digital split
    • Social media activity (75% of time devoted to marketing posts) – 7.0 hours
    • Editing daily e-newsletter – 5.0 hours
    • Posting/updating – 1 hour
    • Miscellaneous (including design, researching future projects) – 3.0 hours
  • 31. Weekly workload estimate – exec. editor with 50/50 print/digital split
    • Track down/edit/write e-news – 10 hours
    • Production, including resizing/editing images plus HTML coding – 5-7 hours
    • Monitor/update social media – 2 hours
    • Miscellaneous – 3 hours
  • 32. Use an Interviewing Scorecard
    • When screening job applicants, supplement note-taking with a multi-factor interviewing score sheet.
    • Rank each candidate on a 0-3 basis, or Yes/No or other preferred system.
    • My score sheet considered 13 factors. Included: (1) On time for interview; (2) greeting; (3) ability to relate previous skills to new position; (4) prepared for interview; (5) portfolio presentation; (6) test results; (7) photography and/or video capability; (7) enthusiastic reaction to job description; (8) evidence of productivity; (9) field presence potential; (10) speaking potential; (11) Capable traveler; (12) Demonstrates organized approach to new job; (13) Professional appearance.
    • During pre-screening process, resumes unaccompanied by a thoughtful cover letter were automatically eliminated.
    • Prior to interview with staff editor, all “A” candidates took basic editing test administered by human resources department. At the time, the failure rate on this test was 65%.
  • 33. Thanks for listening! Howard Rauch, Editorial Solutions
    • For further information, you can reach me via phone – 201-569-7714 – or e-mail to [email_address] .
    • Editorial Solutions Web: www.editsol.com
    • Follow me at www.twitter.com/editsol
    • Currently chairing ASBPE’s ethics committee. Address inquiries to ethics.chair@editsol.com.
  • 34.  

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