Recently, I joined Beck Bamberger, co-founder of OnePitch, on Coffee with a Journalist and we…
Our guest this week on Coffee with a Journalist is Holden Page, director of FinLedger. Holden covers venture capital and mergers & acquisitions in the fintech space. Prior to joining FinLedger, he was a managing editor at Crunchbase and ran his own marketing agency, Page Ventures, from 2013 to 2017 and worked with VCs, tech, etc. on social and such.
On the episode today, Holden talks about pitches in his email inbox and his Twitter inbox, why honest sources are the best ones to work with, why he assumes good intent with sources, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
[00:04:01] BB: We wouldn’t have time. Earlier before we hit the record button, you were saying people message you in LinkedIn, because we’re talking about LinkedIn. How is your inbox and where do your pitches come from?
[00:04:12] HP: Yes. My inbox is, probably like every other journalist. Inbox is scary. I get a lot of the pitches obviously through PR people in my email inbox. I also get from sources a lot of Twitter DMs. A lot of the comments I’ve gotten from venture capitalists and whatnot are via Twitter DMs, so I do pay close attention to those. Other things that end up in my actual inbox, I get a notification for every subscriber to the FinLedger daily, because I like seeing those numbers go up.
[00:04:47] BB: Okay. Yes. I love it.
“You’ll get a response from me if you’re kind to the point and have a specific ask. Yeah, it kind of goes with the succinct portion. Also, warm introductions help.”
[00:04:50] HP: Then I also get invites to just speak to people, contributing podcast, basic management stuff. I’m a director so I have one-to-one with people. In regards to LinkedIn, this has been new to me as we discuss prior. People in financial services really like LinkedIn, so a lot of the conversations that I have with sources or just potential people to do stories with, we just converse through LinkedIn messages, which is completely new to me. Now, I open LinkedIn twice a day, every day, which wasn’t true, like three months ago.
[00:05:26] BB: Isn’t there a lot of spam on there, though too. I’m on LinkedIn all the time because we’re doing like a talent thing on there, which is great. But man, there is a lot of spam. People try to sell you stuff.
[00:05:34] HP: Yes, there is. I’m pretty quick to click the block button, like I don’t care.
[00:05:43] BB: There you go. Okay. What would you say is the proportion, especially because you’re a director, proportionate pitches in your inbox compared to everything else.
[00:05:54] HP: Oh gosh! Like 80% of my inbox is pitches.
[00:05:57] BB: Oh gosh! It’s that much.
[00:06:16] BB: That’s the problem, yes. Okay. So then, systematically, do you have a system, like do you have a color coding flag system? Do you just let it role? Like I’ve heard very large extremes on this show, I have to tell you.
[00:06:29] HP: I try my best to move things into folders that I know are just super important and I need to get back to. I am very quick with the archive button. I do click the spam button pretty often. I don’t think it does anything. Maybe it’s just like my little rebellion against like nonsense pitches. I use an email client called spark. It has a ton of shortcuts. I really like it swipe features on the iOS. Basically, like once a week, I kind of go through like a bankruptcy, where I’m just like, “Okay. I’m going to get through these hundred emails and whatever happens happens.” If I accidentally archive something, I’m sure they will get back to me if they feel passionate about it.
“80% of my inbox is pitches.”
[00:07:10] BB: Okay. You call that your bankruptcy. You’re just like, “Bank it out. Okay.” I’ve never heard of it refer to it as that. Do you get to like inbox zero or is that’s just fantasy?
[00:07:20] HP: That once a week when I declare bankruptcy, yeah, totally.
His Thoughts on Pitches
[00:07:25] BB: I love that. I have not heard that phrase before. I’m declaring bankruptcy on my inbox. Here you go. I love it. Okay. We like to talk, Holden, about where story inspiration comes from. Do you have a way in which you think of how your stories unfold? Now, some of course, you’re talking like breaking news, like when you’re doing this funding rounds, like that’s a very pinpointed piece of news, et cetera. But like maybe this Q&A that you’ve done with a new person. You talked about visa acquiring of FinTech. You’re talking about whatever you might be talking about that’s not like the heartbreaking news, but more it’s just a story you want to pursue. How do you come up with those ideas or do they come from pitches?
[00:08:10] HP: Yeah. Things do come from pitches, but I’m pretty selective. What I like to do and given my job title, like I no longer do like on the ground reporting day in and day out, but I do make a point to make sure I’m talking to really interesting people. Fortunately, my title tends to give me a bit more attention in people’s inboxes and also like being verified on Twitter helps. It’s actually means nothing, but blue checks are a good signal.
[00:08:42] BB: Right. That’s right.
“There’s just so much going on in FinTech and there’s all these angles and there’s so much money too, so everyone can afford the press firms. The budgets are endless there.”
[00:08:45] HP: One of my favorite ones was talking to ACME Capital’s Brian Yee. ACME Capital invested in Robinhood. We were kind of going up into Robinhood’s leads up to the IPO. That’s just a good timing, right? What was cool about Brian and this is part of the discussion when you’re working with a good like press person of like, “Hey! How honest are they? How willing are they to talk about what they’re actually thinking when it comes to the investments they’re making? What story are they willing to tell?” I’ll ask them all that stuff version. If they’re like, “Ugh!” They’re kind of looking for — if you read between the line of puff piece, then I don’t really go for it.
But in the case of Brian Yee, it was great talking to him. He had a really great through line for his narrative. He started at the .com crash. He went through kind of how he met all these pivotal people working on the Facebook and Uber deals. What I liked about that is, when we read about a lot of tech profiles, especially it’s like they just magically burst it out into the scene, the innovation just happened. Whereas like, I like to see where the foundation came from and how it was built up over time because I don’t believe in overnight successes. I want to expose that.
[00:10:05] BB: It is an enchanting fantasy, wasn’t it or you think, “Oh my gosh! It just burst into the scene,” all that stuff. Meanwhile, five and a half years, they’ve been grinding it out with a team of three in the basement. That is more. I’m in startup, so like that’s actually what’s happening, not, “Oh my gosh! They just burst onto the scene, the technology just works.” It’s like that’s not what’s happening. I appreciate you showcasing that for sure.
[00:10:32] HP: Yeah. Well, we all like to be breathless.
How He Writes Stories
[00:02:41] BB: Yeah. See, you still love today. I think any elder millennial appreciates that. I was like, I know exactly what that’s from. Oh, man! First of all, before we talk about your inbox, can you tell us a bit about HousingWire Media and what FinLedger all involves.
[00:02:56] HP: Yeah. HousingWire is actually a brand under HW Media. HW Media is this umbrella company that includes multiple publications. That would be RealTrends, Reverse Mortgage Daily, HousingWire and then what falls under my purview is FinLedger. FinLedger is kind of built from the ground up within HW Media. The other publications were acquisitions. Whereas, I’ve been brought on to help build FinLedger kind of from scratch, developing the audience, attracting financial services people and really trying to grab the environment in FinTech and put it under one publication.
“My favorite sources are succinct.”
[00:03:37] BB: I’m assuming for everybody who here is listening, bank tech, prop tech, things about money, payments, crypto, all that good stuff, that’s what you’re covering?
[00:03:45] HP: Yeah, all the things. I mean, I got to have to be a little strategic because there’s so much that’s going on. I cover crypto when it’s required. If we were covering crypto all day, every day, there would be so much stuff we would missing out on.
[00:10:34] BB: Of course. Okay. You kind of get a variety of your creative input from various sources, sometimes pitches. Okay. A freelance publicist, her name is Justine D’Addio. Justine is asking, “How can we build better relationships with journalists aside from the obvious, knowing what’s newsworthy, being considerate, et cetera?” What would you say?
[00:11:02] HP: Yeah. I mean, one thing if you’re going to build a relationship with other journalists, you need to be willing to go to events and network with people. I know that’s very boring to say, but like shake hands, be engaging. The other thing is, there are so many Slack and discord groups out there. You need to join them and then the next thing is like, you need to actually show up. That’s the biggest thing, like I see a lot of journalists. They’re being like, “Oh! I’m going to join this community” and then like everything is going to be great, everyone’s going to be welcoming. There’ll be people that are welcoming, but they’re also waiting for you to show that you’re committed before they are. I say participate in those communities, put yourself out there.
[00:11:49] BB: Let me ask though. Where are you, sir, showing up for anything?
[00:11:53] HP: Well, I’m in a couple of discord groups, once called News Notary. I’m also in a part of — I have a lot of Twitter DM groups, actually. Some of them have been maintained now for years. It feels a bit like elitist though because people get slowly added over time. It’s like shadow groups, it’s not very easy to like maybe get into that group. But what you can do is start those group to yourself, especially if you have a few people that are really engaging, that you are engaging with publicly. Then move those conversation to DMs and go for that.
I’m kind of a gregarious person. I don’t just talk about work for instance. I really do try to keep like my journalism, FinTech stuff between 9:00 and 5:00 PM. It’s fine to talk about it afterwards, but even journalist don’t want to just talk about journalism. Like they have other hobbies. I do CrossFit. Let’s talk about that.
When it comes to pitches, Holden wants them to be relevant and specific first and foremost. From there it’s all about being succinct and not following up a bunch of times after your first email.
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