In the world of publishing, it is expected that sales teams are rewarded for performance with commission; but for a long time, there was no opportunity for editors to earn outside of their base pay. “Church” may be considered holier, but “state” tended to be greener.

That is, until now. Recently, a few publishers began to compensate their editors based on performance. Performance is a relative term in this case: two publishers implementing this model chose difference audience indicators as the determiner of top editorial performers. Forbes’ chief product officer Lewis DVorkin expanded on how his company is rewarding writers at FOLIO:’s March Roundtable.

“We had two individual contributors, not staff members, who drove one million unique visitors each and they were incentive-based. They were incented to drive audience, not incented to drive page views, and they are further incented to drive repeat users per month,” says DVorkin.

DVorkin then stated that Forbes “doesn’t focus that much on page views” when quantifying successful articles.

On the other side is Vance Publishing Corporation, which launched its editorial rewards program in January. Dean Horowitz, vice president of e-media and market intelligence, details how Vance is rewarding top editors based on page views, or impressions, during a FOLIO: 40 interview.

“Now the editors who said they were posting and are not really posting are seeing how transparent it is, and how it affects their compensation. Initially, there was pushback: it’s open on who the top performers are,” says Horowitz. “We have to value the people making the content more than ever before. It’s about the product, more than it is the sales story.”

Vance installed an editorial audit board to keep the process fair as possible. “They help make sure the editors aren’t using search bait,” says Horowitz.

Both of these models seem to be in beta stages, but progressive nonetheless, in leveling the publishing payment field. At first glance, there are a few hitches that may or may not outweigh the positives. What constitutes a quality article may not always make it the most popular; for those tasked with more mundane subjects in any given niche, paychecks may suffer.

Vance’s transparent model is commendable in its honesty, but may inspire an increased amount of jealousy and rivalry among employees. While a bit of healthy competition is welcome in any work atmosphere, pitting co-editors against each other for dollar reward (in the already cutthroat industry of magazine publishing) seems to be an inevitable and dangerous outcome of this system.

Of course, no new system is without flaw. Cheers to empowering editors, however publishers choose to do so.

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