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Coffee With A Journalist - John Biggs, Gizmodo

Coffee with a Journalist: John Biggs, Gizmodo

On episode 29 of Coffee with a Journalist, John Biggs of Gizmodo joins host, Beck Bamberger, to discuss his views and experiences working in the journalism world. Currently, John serves as Editor-in-Chief at Gizmodo. During their discussion, he talks about his previous work as a founding editor for TechCrunch, crafting stories “with teeth”, and how he approaches journalism in today’s environment. 

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

His Work Inbox

Beck:

Well, let’s talk about your inbox. Cause that’s usually the most pertinent thing people want to hear about is, what does the reporters or the editors inbox look like? Do you get a bunch of pitches on the daily?

John:

We do. Oddly enough, Gizmodo doesn’t get that many pitches. It’s kind of funny. I’m kind of watching it right now. I just deleted about a thousand emails out of my box.

Beck:

Today?

John:

Well, yeah, no, this was gathered over a week. So back at TechCrunch, I used to get like, used to be ridiculous. I used to have like 5,000, 6,000 emails a day and maybe it’s the, maybe it’s because there aren’t that many daily announcements.

Beck:

Did you say 5,000? 5,000?

John:

Yeah. Yeah. It was nuts.

Beck:

What? In your inbox? Every day.

John:

Yeah. And I would have to go through and I would delete.

Beck:

Oh, wow. That’s the biggest number I’ve ever heard.

John:

I mean, it was a wider swathe of the internet. Right? So we were talking about web dev, web apps, startups, all this other stuff. So I don’t know anybody from like, Hello Fresh to some kind of new developer system would try to pitch us. So I was dealing with that. So that was a daily slog. So, me deleting a thousand emails today because I was out for about a week is like a vacation.

His Thoughts on Pitching

Beck:

So now Gizmodo, it’s different. I think there’s a big difference between reporter versus editor, because sometimes you’re playing signal guard and you’re pitching things over to someone on your team who might report it. So do you still, like you yourself, do people write pitches to you? Like “John, I know you’re the editor, but like, I really want you to review this new watch.?

John:

Well, so I mean, I think people have. That was one of the things though that actually got kind of depressing. Because I really didn’t have any friends. I just had people who pitched me. So yeah, I mean, it’s literally my entire relationship with humanity was basically, “What does this person want from me?” Which is-

Beck:

God. Yeah.

John:

I guess, I don’t know. I mean, that’s not healthy. So, that’s kind of gone away, which also is kind of depressing as well because it’s like, “Oh, well now I don’t know.” The, the friends I didn’t want, I don’t have, and now I don’t have even though those friends quote unquote.

Beck:

Well, you’re busy writing books, so hopefully that’s another outlet for you.

John:

Yeah. So, I’m trying to try to stay busy. So, the thing there is that you’re in a position of, I guess, power. Blogs for the most part have kind of lost their juice over the past decade, let’s say. In Tech Crunch, when first started, that was 10,000 easy signups in a minute as soon as you got posted on TechCrunch. And now it’s, I don’t know, a couple of hundred because just people are so inundated with stuff and it’s an entirely different world. I mean, there used to be a situation where VCs would basically say, “If you aren’t mentioned in TechCrunch, we won’t invest in you.” So, that was a lot of power to wield.

Beck:

That’s a lot.

John:

The flip side of that is that you basically were just pitched constantly, just hassled constantly about what you want to do.

Beck:

Wow. I mean, to TechCrunch’s name, and you were one of the founders, we have clients. Now, this is on the BAM side of things, but who are like, “Oh, absolutely. I have to get my article. I need to get the piece of news in TechCrunch. That’s my top focus.” That’s it? I mean, it still carries a lot of weight in the tech world.

John:

Yeah. And that’s, that’s fine. It’s kind of silly that they give it that much power, but God bless him for wanting it. And again, it’s maintained its power. I think what TechCrunch has done well is they’ve really done events well, so they’ve really done-

Beck:

Yes.

John:

Defines the startup event and it’s one of the best.

How He Writes Stories

Beck:

Making of the story, so, John, we like to just ask folks whether you get an article idea from a pitch or you’re walking your dog or you’re scanning Tik Tok, whatever you’re doing, where do you come up with the nugget of a story?

John:

I think it varied and vast one thing that I did was set up a thing called Tech for Reporters, techforreporters.com. And it’s basically just kind of like my reverse spam system. Unfortunately, a lot of reporters just don’t try it I guess. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s an interesting, it’s an interesting system because you can basically ask a question and you can say, “Hey, what do you think about,” I don’t know, “VPNs” and I can get immediate answers. And that’s one it’s kind of like help a reporter out, but just for tech ideas.

Beck:

Gotcha.

John:

Yeah. That’s what I built out for that. I don’t really get pitches. I don’t get stories from pitches anymore. It’s just because, unless it’s like some kind of new gadget, right? Unless it’s just something small, but, if I’m writing something, I want to write something with some teeth. So I’m trying to figure out who I can talk to.

Beck:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And where are you getting that though? Are you scanning Twitter? Are you talking to various folks?

John:

I’ll work with my editors here. Just trying to figure out what is top of mind for them. We do a lot of science and ecology stories. That’s something that I’ve never really focused on, but it’s something that the site focuses on. And if I see something on Twitter or whatever that passes through the transom of my mind, then I’ll give it to them.

Beck:

You get this, for example, Tom cruise thing, where he’s wearing this horrendous mask.

John:

Oh gosh, I found it. Yeah. And I showed it to our IO9 editor and she basically pointed out that everything about it was wrong, because he was wearing the awful mask. Somehow these kind of like teenage girls identified him in a van without even seeing his face, which is kind of cheesy. Like you can kind of tell that he was maybe making it up.

Beck:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s very awkward. Interesting. Okay. So you, so you happened to just like come across this?

John:

Ah, yeah.

Beck:

And you were like, “Oh, okay.” And chat with, okay. Oh, interesting. Wow. And even putting his own screenshot of himself on his own Twitter page. Okay. Interesting. Wow. The internet it’s vast and wide itself. That’s the scary part.

______

Be sure to check out John Biggs’s latest book, Get Funded!: The Startup Entrepreneur’s Guide to Seriously Successful Fundraising, today! Also, if you are like John and are looking to explore other great reads, check out our article, 5 Voices to Amplify: Authors Edition, for 5 informative and insightful books that will broaden your perspective and world view. 

To listen to more interesting conversations on Coffee with a Journalist, subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Twitter to stay updated on our latest episodes and blog drops!

Mathew Cruz

Mathew started at OnePitch in January of 2020 as a Marketing Apprentice. He currently serves as the SEO & Content Marketing Specialist handling content creation from social media to the OnePitch blog. Mathew studied Integrated Marketing Communications at San Diego State University. In his free time, he loves creating art, visiting museums, and traveling.

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