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This episode of the Coffee with a Journalist Podcast is joined by PopSugar Senior Shopping Editor Macy Williams. From starting at PopSugar as an editorial intern to moving up the ranks to Senior Editor, Macy is no stranger to the journalist grind. Today, Macy covers the whole shopping gamut from news on direct-to-consumer goods to product releases and reviews. Host Beck Bamberger sits down with Macy to discuss Macy’s inbox-zero management of her nearly 200-300 daily pitches, the three content buckets that help her write stories, her advice for aspiring journalists, and more!
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Work Inbox
Beck Bamberger: Yes. Well, let’s jump into this, Ms. Macy. First off, how does your inbox look? Is it slammed with pitches? Is it hundreds of them? What do you do?
Macy Williams: It’s slammed with pitches.
When I sit at my desk at 9:00 a.m., there are 200 to 300 emails in my inbox.”
BB: How many are pitches?
Macy: 80 to 90% of them.
BB: Oh wow. That’s a high percent. Okay, that’s high. That’s a lot. So what do you do? What do you do?
MW: That’s my first thing. I can’t concentrate on anything else until I get that to zero. So I’m a zero inbox person. Hands down.
BB: Oh, you’re one of the rare ones here.
MW: Well, in the morning, it’ll take me about 30 to 45 minutes to go through all those pitches. To be honest, I don’t, I mean, I’m deleting half of them because they have nothing to do …
BB: Yup. Yup.
MW: Up and coming, Instagram star dropped a new single and I’m like, I’m a shopping editor. No, I’m not going to write about that.
BB: What’s the weirdest one you saw this week, would you say, off topic one?
MW: Ooh. This week. I think someone sent me a pitch about this dusting device to clean your air conditioning vents, which is definitely not POPSUGAR-Y.
MW: Yeah. But then I also label, the PR people that I work with a lot, I make sure they’re labeled, so I don’t miss their pitches.
BB: Ah, okay. So that’s a sorting mechanism you have.
MW: Right. Those are the first ones I look at.
Her Thoughts on Pitching
BB: Yes! There you go. Okay. So it sounds like it comes from all types of places. And when you’re getting down to zero inbox every day, making sure you appropriately categorize, by the way, do you delete, just fully delete, you never see another email ever again? Or do you ever file pitches?
MW: I definitely star pitches that I know I can come back to, especially if I can’t give them an answer right now, and if I’ll have the bandwidth to cover something or I know it’s not relevant right now, especially with COVID.
There are some things I’m not going to write about right now, but maybe in the fall or next year I will. So, I’ve got a lot of starred pitches that I hold on to as well.”
How She Writes Stories
BB: Yeah, you mentioned summering in place. Yes. Quite true. How do you go about deciding what stories you do? What’s kind of your process.
MW: I feel I’m going to give you a long answer.
BB: That’s great. We want a long answer. I mean, how does it start? How did the summer one take place, for example? Or did you like, Oh, that’s the one I always do?
MW: I think a shopping content falling under three different content buckets. The first one is SEO, so Search Engine Optimization and things people are looking for on Google.
I’m looking at Google trends every single day to see what needs we can fulfill for our readers through our shopping content. And one thing people were looking for is, what, or how can I gift people things while we’re social distancing?”
So that’s where that came about. And then that’s also a bunch of euphoria stars are wearing colored eyeliner, so everyone’s looking for colored eyeliners so I’m going to do a roundup of different colored eyeliners.
BB: That’s right.
MW: Harry styles’ knit sweater was going viral on TikTok, so we did a bunch of knit.
BB: That’s right.
MW: Sweater content, that sort of thing. And then the second content bucket would be product releases, which could be anything from Nike coming out with a super cool, new sneaker that everyone’s going to freak out about, H&M releasing a sustainable dress line, so things like that. And that’s really where the PR relationships come into. Those are the sorts of things we’re writing about when new stuff comes up. And then the last content bucket, which is my favorite, is product reviews. So, things that me and my editors have tested ourselves, whether it be organically, just randomly buying something and loving it, or a PR person pitching a cool, new product and us getting a first look at it or testing it out. And those are really fun because we get to do original photos and really get our hands on the products that we’re writing about.
BB: Now, do you just, seriously, randomly will get something and go like, “Wow, I really like this. Let me do a review.” Does that happen?
MW: Every week. Oh yeah. I just got, there’s this really cool UK-based brand called Never Fully Dressed. They have awesome dresses. I was curious. I bought a wrap dress from them and it’s the most flattering wrap dress I’ve ever tried. So I’m going to write a review about it in a couple of weeks.
MW: There’s a lot of beauty stuff we’ve tried. I mean, we’re all slathering our faces with stuff every day anyway, we might as well write about the stuff that works.
If you love listening to the insight of stellar journalists like Macy, be sure to check out our conversation with Katharine Schwab, Deputy Tech Editor at Fast Company where she dives into running a small but mighty reporting team, finding the personal aspects behind tech news, and her journey to tech journalism.
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