Today on Coffee with a Journalist we’re joined by Jacob Roach, a senior staff writer from Digital Trends. Jacob covers gaming and computing devices for the publication. Click below to follow Jacob Roach on Twitter and LinkedIn.
During the episode, Jacob talks about his preference for working with familiar sources, shares an example of a real pitch subject line that caught his attention, how you can best reach him to work together, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Inbox & Pitches
[00:03:05] BB: And you write specifically in a pretty nerdy vertical, I will say. Computing, gaming, all these great things, and that’s a bit of your background. We’ll talk about pitches as it relates to that in just a second. So if you’re listening right now, and gaming is your thing, and you really are down with that, this is your guy. This is totally your guy. You probably even know Jacob already. So Jacob, how does your inbox look?
[00:03:30] JR: It’s bad. I have a lot of stuff. I try and clear out things as quickly as I can, things that are just clearly not important to me or nothing that I would even come close to covering. But I have a lot of stuff that are either stories in progress or things I need to follow up on that needs further communication. So there’s a lot.
[00:03:53] BB: What’s the majority of pitches, if you had to say, or what percentage? What percentage? What is the percentage of pitches?
[00:04:01] JR: Percentage of pitches in my inbox. I’d say probably 40 to 50 percent of my inbox is pitches after I go through everything.
[00:04:12] BB: In noting which pitches you open, how do you go about deciding that? Do you slay the subject lines? Or are you just like, “Okay, that’s a shitty subject line. Bye-bye.” Or do you open every pitch? Do you file?
[00:04:23] JR: I technically open everything because I’m just scrolling down through Outlook, but there are a lot of keywords that I can pick up on if something is worth pursuing or not. So lately, a lot of crypto, Web3, that type of thing, getting a lot of pitches around that. That’s something that Digital Trends doesn’t really cover. For the vast majority of people, that’s not impacting their life right now. Once it does, then we’ll cover it. So if I can see crypto, Web3, or I’ll get like a lot of pitches for like baby monitors of all things.
His Pitching Preferences
[00:05:05] BB: So you open every single pitch. What’s a good pitch to you, and what are the elements of a good pitch? We must know.
[00:05:12] JR: In general, I’d like to see a pitch from somebody that I already have a relationship with. There’s definitely room for unsolicited pitches. But if it comes from a company or a contact that I’ve talked to in the past, that’s good. The main thing I want to see out of pitch, though, is the potential to go further. I generally approach stories, especially when I’m pitched by companies, a PR team that’s launching a new product or something. I’m coming into that story with an assumption that there’s an angle for that company to – They want to tell a certain story, and that’s great.
But I also want to make sure that I contextualize that story. So I’m really looking for potential to expand outside of what is just in that email and bring in other sources, bring in additional context. That’s what gets me excited.
“...[Digital Trends’] focus is informing readers about technology or products that may enhance their lives, provide them enjoyable experiences, and just make living a little bit more fun.”
[00:06:00] BB: Is it helpful then if you’ve seen a pitch, “Hey, Jacob. Here’s additional sources I have for the story. Insert A, B, C expert.”? Do you wish to see those listed or included?
[00:06:12] JR: Yeah. It’s certainly helpful. I’ve gotten additional sources that way or just been pointed in different directions of research. That’s helpful, for sure. But I think it comes back to what the story is that’s being pitched because I can talk to three people. But if they’re all telling me the exact same thing, it’s not much of a story.
His Thoughts on Subject Lines
[00:06:31] BB: Jacob, when you think of the subject line – So I know you already said you open every email. So in a way, maybe the subject line doesn’t matter so much. But for you, we’re very big here on talking about like the essence of the subject line, how important the subject line could be. What is the best subject line, either ever or lately, that you have received, and then tell us why?
[00:06:53] JR: Yeah, sure. So I actually have two examples. I got one this morning, actually, that was really great. Maybe this is a little bit self-absorbed, but someone’s subject line was just a headline for an article I wrote about six or seven months ago, and it’s recycling isn’t enough. Here’s how to solve the e-waste crisis. So it was someone reaching out about some circular economy e-waste, this type of story, this type of pitch.
“It’s closely related to the topics that we cover and something that our readers really care about.”
But at the very least, the subject line says, “Hey, I know what you cover. I read your story. I’m from this company or I’m representing this company, and I think that we could work together based off of what you’ve written in the past.” So just a really quick way to be upfront that, “Hey, I care about writing the story. I’m not just like blasting the same email out a million people.”
[00:07:44] BB: Yes, because you can’t recycle that subject line.
[00:07:48] JR: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:07:49] BB: Did the subject line say like re the headline of your story? Tell us a little bit more, if you can.
[00:07:56] JR: No. It’s the copy pasted headline.
[00:07:59] BB: Wow. Okay.
[00:08:00] JR: So at the very least, it was a good strategy to get me to open and consider the body of the email because I’m like, “Hey, I think I –”
[00:08:08] BB: I wrote that.
[00:08:08] JR: Yeah. I remember that one.
His Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes
[00:09:35] BB: Jacob, looking at your stuff, and I’ve poked around, I’ve read a few things, but do you ever take exclusives or embargoes?
“Exclusives are a little bit different. Exclusives are great if the product itself is already interesting.”
[00:09:42] JR: Yeah. We take embargoes all the time for news and reviews. It’s important for Digital Trends. I think over the past couple of years or so, we’ve been less inclined to take every embargo. Generally, when we’re receiving something under embargo, I’m assuming that everybody else that writes in the same vertical that we do, they all have that exact same embargo, and we’re all going to be publishing the same story at that time. So if there’s a way to take that embargo outside of a press release or outside of a product review, and provide additional commentary or maybe publish after embargo and do additional testing, that’s more enticing.
Exclusives are a little bit different. Exclusives are great if the product itself is already interesting. So just because something is exclusive doesn’t mean that I will take it. But if it’s a cool new monitor that has a crazy piece of technology or does something a little bit different than a lot of other monitors do, that’s an exclusive we want to see.
[00:10:48] BB: Do you want to see exclusive, the word, in the headline or in the subject line?
[00:10:52] JR: No, no.
[00:10:54] BB: Oh, you don’t need that. Okay. Okay.
[00:10:55] JR: Yeah. I don’t think so. I think the vast majority of the time when I see exclusive at the front of a subject line, it’s for a baby monitor.
[00:11:08] BB: That’s not good. That’s really not good. God, I don’t even know like exclusive launch of baby monitor. That’ll let you know when your baby burps. I don’t know. Like what’s the exclusive of this?
[00:11:18] JR: I don’t know if I actually have gotten an exclusive on a baby monitor, but it’s exclusive and stuff that we just don’t cover.
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