What is ‘authors KPI’ in editorial

Why should editorial teams use KPI?
How to accurately assess each author’s performance?
How to avoid damaging your reputation with erroneous KPI?

So, to begin with, KPI means Key Performance Indicators.

The research done over the past 5 years shows that KPI usage is directly proportional to company value — the bigger the company is, the more KPIs are introduced and applied to a wider range of employees.

This conclusion is only partially true in media industry, as author’s performance is rather difficult to calculate.

Bearing this issue in mind, we’ve started to closely investigate the workflow of one of our clients, and later other clients, who requested custom adaptations of “Authors” report.

And we’ve found out that “Authors” report activity in these projects has increased by 3 times!

Who and why do assess the authors?

Two types of users exploit “Authors” report:

  1. Those who receive salary, i.e. authors
  2. Those who make the decision on salary calculation

According to the answers of more than 600 interviewed clients it turned out that:

  1. In 80% of cases the report is used to analyze the results
  2. More than a half of the editorial teams do not set any specific targets for the assessed indicators
  3. These indicators do not affect authors’ motivation in any way in ¾ of the editorial teams

The problem was trivial — editors experience difficulties to decide by which indicators and how should be authors’ KPI calculated. A really streamlined calculation is not always fair, while a sophisticated one is usually difficult to implement and use.

Therefore, authors often just monitored their indicators, and editors assessed the performance by feel.

How authors’ assessment is performed?

The first authors’ KPI reports were provided in a simple tabular form with lots of data on the parameters, requested by the clients.

It did not work well. A large amount of data presented worked rather to satisfy curiosity than to build a motivation scheme.


Our clients helped us to understand which indicators should be considered and calculated.

A dedicated poll gave us the main indicators for the KPI:

  1. Views — standard indicator to measure the performance
  2. Went further (Recirculation) — if the author adds sticky features and relinking, it affects the performance
  3. Number of published materials — this indicator is mainly used by news providers, as they produce large amounts of content
  4. Time and/or read-through rate — the indicator intended for articles, as it shows the success of large-sized content.

Other indicators were unpopular because the authors influenced them in a lesser extent, or they were linked with other more popular indicators.

Fair KPI system

In a week time we’ve derived 8 complex formulas and a single simple one.

All formulas were applied to at least 8 different scenarios, with over 280 calculation types simulated.

Attempts to set the coefficients for each indicator depending on section types, number of authors and other factors have led to a severe underestimation or overestimation of the indicators.

And attempts to encourage author performance development have led to a logical stalemate.

As a result, the only truly working formula turned out to be the simplest one.

How does the formula works:

  • The system will automatically set KPI based on previous month performance or you can set your own goals for authors, sections and the whole website.
  • Each indicator has its weight which impacts the % of KPI completion. You may even choose 0% as weighted coefficient, so that the indicator will have no impact on KPI calculation.
  • The editor may set monthly goals for section, web site or each author.
  • For each indicator points are added.
  • Within a month system forecasts goal completion, indicating what the % should be and what it is in reality.
  • All the authors are rated according to their results and KPI rate.

The first beta version of the report:

What do you get by using KPI:

  1. Universal tool for 3-person sized and larger editorial teams
  2. Fair and accurate assessment of each author’s contribution
  3. Motivation for the author to work on quality and quantity
  4. Tips for the author on the strengths and weaknesses
  5. Time saver for bonus calculation and planning


Do not be afraid to “hook up” the editorial team with KPI.

Executive editors usually underestimate their authors by saying that the author is a creative person, who should be shielded from any numbers.

Firstly, all top authors do analyze their performance.

Secondly, the editorial teams are trying to get measurable results, while setting non-measurable objectives:

  • Writing high quality and interesting content — time and read-through rate
  • Catchy content is needed — social media activity
  • Writing as quickly as possible — views and positions in aggregators
  • Adding sticky features to the article — recirculation
  • In case tasks should be evenly distributed — number of published materials by sections and content types

While the user can be responsible for any non-particular task, and if the result is impossible to calculate — you should think, whether do you need this task at all? =)

We will start installing our first KPI reports in May and gladly help with goal settings and results tracking.

You may ask your analyst for more details or send an e-mail to io.support@onthe.io ! =)

.io team