Motivating editors with business goals
Editors who understand the business model behind what they're doing are more motivated, according to Maurice Bakley, president of FierceMarkets. FierceMarkets uses metrics to inform and incentivize editors to improve metrics and therefore revenue. Should more publishers be roping editorial staff into the revenue plan in order to increase editorial ROI?
FierceMarkets is a B2B e-media company with brands in the telecom, life sciences, healthcare, finance and enterprise IT industries. The company's content strategy is a mix of curation and original content. What started as value-added aggregation now includes original reporting, commentary, infographics and special reports.
Content expansion (adding new digital publications) and revenue growth have gone hand-in-hand, Bakley explained during an American Business Media webinar. What started in 2000 with e-mail newsletters grew to more non-news offerings such as editorial webinars, events and eBooks (including some paid products).
Part of the content strategy is to educate the editorial staff about how content fuels revenue. It might sound simple, but many reporters weren't exactly trained to understand the business side of journalism or be involved in revenue-related discussion. Bakley said Fierce informs its editors about how content drives visitors, leading to several direct and indirect revenue generators, such as subscribers.
It also helps to hire good people. Each newsletter has an editorial team with several skill levels (editor-in-chief, managing editor, senior editor and associate editor), in addition to freelancers.
When hiring, Fierce looks for editors comfortable in FierceMarkets' format, which is quick-paced and not the best fit for someone more interested in writing in-depth pieces. SEO and social media skills are now “non-negotiable” in the hiring process ― and help the company weed out about 70 percent of the applicants (though junior editors usually don't have a problem). “If you've done a blog on the side, if you have an active Twitter account, we can see that,” Bakley said.
Setting editorial goals
FierceMarkets outlines short and long-term goals for the editorial staff, checks in regularly, and rewards outcomes.
Individuals and groups receive annual goals such as increasing Web traffic and e-mail performance. They're also given monthly goals around specific outcomes, such as interviewes delivered, Twitter followers attained, content tags cleaned, etcetera, Bakley said. The third category are “stretch goals,” announced in the third quarter after evaluating how far they've come and where they could "stretch" to end up.
For the most part, journalists are accustomed to looking in Google Analytics, but not all are rewarded for what they find. FierceMarkets uses metrics to promote the most successful stories. On a daily basis, traffic metrics are sent to the entire company (from sales to editorial) and the top three pieces of content are acknowledged (weighted for the different-sized audiences). The reports also call out gaps where editors need to pick up the pace.
A report about e-mail newsletters is also sent to publishers and editors, highlighting where they could do better. He calls them “teachable moments” to inform staff about improving SEO and e-mail subject lines.
The publisher also offers monetary incentives. For instance, each month Fierce gives an award recognizing an editorial staff member who did exceptional work, whether it's for traffic, landing a big interview, or doing great trade show coverage. “We try to make sure there's quality recognition as well [as quantitative],” he said.
Editors can earn $1,000 for meeting stretch goals. “People really get into that contest,” he said.
This all sounds positive, but there are challenges ― for instance, occasionally there's pushback about tying business incentives to content strategy. The most obvious challenge is that bonuses cost money.
The company has to be hitting goals and growing its business in order to offer rewards to editors. “It's hard to do that if you're not increasing your overall revenue product,” he said. “Without that it would be very difficult to justify.”
Could B2B editors benefit from more incentive programs and understanding of what content is driving revenue? What experiences have you had at your company? Please share below.