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Coffee with a Journalist: Blake Montgomery, Gizmodo

Coffee With A Journalist: Blake Montgomery, Gizmodo

Joining us today on Coffee with a Journalist is Blake Montgomery. He is the tech news editor at Gizmodo where he oversees a team of reporters covering technology news. 

During the episode, Blake shares his love of writing, his recommendation for building a working relationship together, his honest opinion on embargoes, and lots more.

Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

 

His Thoughts on Pitches

 

 

[00:06:59] BB: 100%. 100%. Okay. Now, Blake, you are now an editor. So that is sometimes a little different than being a reporter in terms of the volume of pitches, but sometimes, frankly, not. How is your inbox?

“Must-have elements of a good pitch are why it matters outside of like your company or to the wider world? If you can tie it to an ongoing news story. As an old editor of mine used to say, like, can you touch the third rails of American culture? Like, what will electrify your story and make me say, “Oh, of course we need to cover this.” That’s like the biggest one.”

[00:07:14] BM: Mine is fine. I think because it’s relatively new. I started as an editor earlier this year. It’s not particularly inundated. I do notice that it is the volume and it is growing. But yeah, it is quite different. As a reporter, I disregarded a lot of pitches, honestly. But as an editor, I will read them because I’m like, “Oh, do I want to assign this?” As an editor, I’m responsible for a much wider breadth of subject matter for all of my different reporters who are covering different things, like cybersecurity, or surveillance, or like online communities and influencers.

I need to read the pitches and say, “Is this a big development on their beat? Like, do I need to assign this to someone?” Whereas when I was a reporter, I was only responsible for one subject matter. If I was not really covering influencers, if I wasn’t really writing stories about influencers, I wouldn’t be like taking a lot of pitches about social media, or power users, or online creators. I’d be like, “Give me the cybersecurity stuff.”

 

His Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes

 

 

[00:09:41] BB: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. Oh, I love it like, Blake. Okay, we already covered our relationship-building stuff. And that’s in another video. Everyone needs to look at that. Are exclusives or embargoes ever something you like? 

[00:09:58] BM: Definitely, especially exclusives. If there’s ‘exclusive’ in the subject line of an email, I’m like 10 times more likely to click on it and read it more thoroughly. Because if we’re the only outlet getting that story, then we are – We look like we are covering something more thoroughly better than other outlets because we are the only ones with access to a story. And in the sort of chain reaction of a story getting published, one thing that we really look for as a measure of success is whether someone else will write up our story and link to it, aggregate it as we say.

“If there’s ‘exclusive’ in the subject line of an email, I’m like 10 times more likely to click on it and read it more thoroughly.” 

And so, if it’s an exclusive, we’re a lot more likely to be aggregated because someone’s like, “Oh, we need that story on our site. Let’s write that up. We’ll link to Gizmodo.” If someone is pitching me an exclusive, I’m like, “I’m thinking about what that story will do for us.” And I’m saying that’s a much higher likelihood that we will get something that we want out of that pitch.

And embargoes, embargoes are also useful in that we can publish our coverage right when everyone else is. And we can say, “We’re on top of this story as well.” It’s less cool. It’s less prestigious to be like one of five people. But it’s a lot better than like five people publishing a story that you’re like, “Oh, we needed to cover that. And we were left out of the embargo.” And so, now we’re just like late. Because the game is speed in what we do, especially online.

 

His Thoughts on Subject Lines

 

[00:22:16] BB: Okay. Want. We like it. And go straight to it. Okay. You also mentioned on the video a little series we did, which everyone can check out and see. A little bit about relationship building with you and a subject line. You actually gave a shout-out to one of your favorite subject lines. I do like to cover it here, though. For you, a subject, and you talk about it a little bit about exclusives, but a subject line, you’re like, “Damn, that’s a good subject line.” What does such a subject line include? 

[00:22:39] BM: A lot of them have what they are about in the first one or two words. Study; The United States government makes far more requests than other comparable governments of technology companies. Pitch; spoiled nostalgia at Elon Musk’s charging stations exclusive. Whatever that exclusive is. I mean, you guys sent me – Your subject line was ‘podcast guest’. And then I don’t remember the rest of the subject line. But I clicked on it because I was like, “I would like to be a podcast guest.”

[00:23:08] BB: There you go. Yes. Yes. Okay. It sounds like it’s a mixture, but it gets to the point. And it gets what the ask is. Yeah, I like it.

 

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Learn more pitch tips and insights from previous guests on Coffee with a Journalist in our journalist spotlight videos available for free on YouTube.

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Jered is the co-founder, COO and support manager at OnePitch. He handles operations for OnePitch; along with strategy, support, business development and hiring. He studied Communications with an emphasis in marketing at Cal State University Long Beach. In his free time, he enjoys surfing, eating cheap street food, cooking, and exploring the outdoors.

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