Our guest on today’s episode is Kayleigh Barber, media editor for Digiday. Kayleigh covers revenue diversification within the digital media industry, including e-commerce, licensing, virtual events and membership. Some other areas of focus for her include blockchain, crypto and the metaverse, the future of work, diversity and inclusion, and other large industry trends.
She is the co-host of the Digiday Podcast. She is a host and moderator for Digiday and other industry events, including the Digiday Publishing Summit, and she works on editorial projects ranging from topical guides to podcasting.
During the episode, Kayleigh shares more about her preference for pitches and subject lines, why sending one follow up email is okay with her, her favorite types of compliments about her work, and lots more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Work Inbox
[00:04:34] BB: Got you. So you told us how many emails you’re getting usually a day, and then a lot of those are pitches. Of course, that’s the bane of being a journalist. How do you organize them? Are you one of those let it ride in the inbox? Well, you said you got down to 17. So do you file? Do you just purely trash? Like what do you do to keep yourself sane?
[00:04:56] KB: That’s a great question. I don’t really organize or file my emails. I tried to do that before, but I find that that takes just as much time and effort as opening an email in the first place and reading it. The ones that I’m in correspondence with already for maybe a story I’m working on, or I’m reaching out to someone about a story I want to write, those ones typically get starred or flagged as like important. But honestly, it’s more so me remembering what I’m working on and trying to go back to them and finding them throughout the day. It’s not, by any means, an organized inbox.
“Again, I think if it’s a personalized email that is addressed to me and not going to 1,000 people, I like when people take the time. I like when people offer to provide more info. You give me some pretty substantial details in the initial email. I will almost always respond.”
[00:05:34] BB: Very few people out of the now dozens and dozens we’ve done have like the scientific method of any sort dialed in. Everyone has just something that kind of works.
[00:05:45] KB: I admire people who can take the time to do that. I do not have the patience to do it myself.
Her Thoughts on Pitches
[00:03:08] BB: Yeah, exactly. So we were just talking about this with your pitch tips. But what is the type of pitch you do not want, just to be clear?
[00:03:18] KB: the type of pitch I do not want is one that is very off base. So, as I mentioned, Digiday covers media and marketing. That can really run the gamut. My beat is pretty squarely settled in the media side of the company. I have started a new beat that is in the blockchain kind of realm, so how blockchain applies to the industries we cover. But a lot of the times, I want to say about 50% of the pitches I get are completely outside of the realm of what I cover, and they almost always get trashed immediately. So my inbox is pretty full. I’m talking on a day when I thankfully have gotten down to, I think, 17 emails, which is pretty good for me.
[00:04:04] BB: That’s great.
“Hard figures are obviously the preference. Not every company can say, “We made three million dollars on this business in the first year.” But it is really helpful to at least know to be able to substantiate claims of a positive business. I need to at least verify that this growth is happening.”
[00:04:06] KB: Yeah. It took a while to get there. I have a really packed inbox. In any kind of given day, I get 50 to 60 emails, and I don’t really have time to respond to them all. So ones that reflect that they know my beat reflect that I could apply this to my coverage and understand the type of stories that we cover is something that I will reply to. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of the high level look at what I would respond to.
[00:05:53] BB: Few people do. Few people do. Okay, so back to the response in the emails you will respond to. So you’re saying, obviously, the content needs to be on topic for what you’re covering. Do you at all gauge though this by the subject line? I mean, or do you open every single email, like every single pitch?
[00:06:11] KB: I do try to open almost every single email, unless it is a wired email. So if it’s like a press release that goes out to a ton of people, and I can get the gist from the headline or the subject line, I likely won’t click into it. If it’s interesting enough, I will take a look at it usually. But the ones that I will open and read are the ones that are addressed to me. Putting my name in the subject line does help in getting my attention.
[00:06:40] BB: Oh, interesting. Okay.
[00:06:41] KB: Yeah. I know sometimes that doesn’t work all the time. I do take a look at the ones that name me in the subject line because I know that they’re taking time to email me. Whether or not I respond to each and every one of them, it really depends. If it’s really off base, sometimes I don’t. But I do try to respond to people who have taken the time to email me directly.
How She Writes Stories
[00:02:30] BB: I’m excited too. Let’s start with – Actually, a lot of times we just hop into the inbox and talk about what’s going on with pitches and all that crap. But, first, for those maybe needing familiarity, can you tell us about Digiday?
[00:02:44] KB: Absolutely. So Digiday is a trade publication that focuses on the media and marketing industries. I personally cover the media side of the business. So I write a lot about digital publishers and the ways that they’re diversifying their revenue, as well as really preparing their businesses for this very digital moment of time.
[00:07:04] BB: Well, that’s nice. That’s good to know. So hopefully, you’ll get a response from Kayleigh. It’s a likelihood, likelihood, potential likelihood. When you’re thinking of the stories you do, Kayleigh, like you did this one on how 2021 taught Gallery Media to quickly adapt related to TikTok, the playbook. You’re doing something on Pop-Up Magazine here. You also do some work on diversity. So you talked about black Latina on print publications, creating digital advertisements, all these various topics. Is there a way you come up with your story ideas? Or are some of them – Or I guess and or. Do they come from pitches?
“My favorite sources always are willing to give me something juicy. I love it when people are on the record. But if you want to tell me something that you can’t really say on the record, but maybe you could say it on background or tell it to me that I can use to inform other reporting, that is amazing.”
[00:07:42] KB: I would say a fair amount of them are based on either ideas I’ve had or conversations I’ve had with my editors. There are times though when I get a pitch from a publication I cover regularly or maybe a PR agency that’s working with an agency. Or something like that that pitches me an idea that I do find interesting and I do run with it. I will say when I do get pitched stories, I’m very focused on getting the numbers and the angles of the story set in stone before I go ahead and interview the subject because I want to make sure that the pitch is going to align with what the story turns out to be.
Not always the case but sometimes I find that a story sounds really interesting. Maybe it’s about revenue diversification and how a company made a ton of money on a new business they launched. Or maybe they’re getting into commerce for the first time, and they saw a really positive response to that. Oftentimes, I need some sort of financial indication that that is the truth. So I need revenue figures, hard numbers, gross statistics, something like that. That’s not always promised when I’m pitched, so I ask for that off the bat.
Like many other journalists, Kayleigh prefers emails that are personalized and include rich information like data points, quotes, and background information. She also says it’s okay to follow up just once if you don’t hear from.
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