Today on Coffee with a Journalist we’re joined by Mia Sato from The Verge. Mia is a reporter at The Verge covering digital platforms and the people who use them. Click below to follow Mia Sato on Twitter and LinkedIn.
During the episode, Mia talks about deceptive subject lines, pitches she receives from The Verge tip line, a recent scoop about Etsy sellers, and more
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Inbox & Pitches
[00:02:47] BB: All the things. You can even toggle too if you have a favorite tech brand like Samsung or Tesla or it has its own tab, Facebook. There you go. You can see it all, just amazing. I love it. And comics. Even comics are included on the entertainment section. So check it out.
Okay, Mia, you came from MIT Technology Review, which is a totally different publication, much more in depth. You’ve also then even come from a government publication and Wisconsin journalism, all this stuff. Now, being at The Verge, how is your inbox and specifically with pitches?
[00:03:22] MS: Oh, my God. Like just out of control.
[00:03:25] BB: Oh, God.
[00:03:26] MS: I have never received so many emails in my entire life than when I started at The Verge. I think like before I even actually got into my inbox, I had pitches because people know sort of the email formats and stuff. For a while, I was locked out of my Verge email when I was being on boarded. Then when I finally got in, there were emails already waiting for me. There were pitches waiting. Yeah, people –
[00:03:48] BB: What?
[00:03:49] MS: Yes. I get a lot of pitches.
“I have never received so many emails in my entire life than when I started at The Verge.”
[00:03:50] BB: Wait, wait. So you’re like, “Oh, cool. Here I am day three,” and you log in now finally, and there’s already pitches for you.
[00:03:58] MS: I know. I thought I would get to start at least at inbox zero, but I didn’t even get that.
[00:04:03] BB: What? I’ve never heard of that.
“A lot of emails, you don’t know what is going to be in there. The tip line at The Verge will forward me stuff, so I get a lot of things coming in.”
[00:04:03] MS: It was like there were already things waiting.
[00:04:06] BB: How did the vultures know about this? Was there a tweet? Is that how they knew? That’s probably why. Did you tweet about it?
[00:04:12] MS: I did tweet about my new job, like before I started, and I’m sure people just tried every iteration of my name, which –
[00:04:19] BB: Oh, they didn’t have the email. They just tried.
Her Thoughts on Subject Lines
[00:09:12] BB: Oh, fascinating. Fascinating. Okay. You hinted about subject lines and how they can be deceiving. So even though you’re a open-all-email person, tell us a little bit more about the deception that you see in subject lines. What you like and what you don’t like, which by the way, we’re going to get into your next best subject lines in a second, but tell us on the subject lines.
[00:09:34] MS: Yes. Well, I would say that the worst emails and worst subject lines to get are the ones that over promise, which are quite a few. I mean, that’s kind of the name of the game, right? It’s like over promise something, see if you can get someone to open it, and then we’ll go from there.
[00:09:50] BB: Disappoint.
[00:09:50] MS: Yes. But it’s not helpful for anyone. It’s not helpful for me. It’s not helpful for the PR person. I know they’re just doing their job, so I do not fault them. But I think there needs to be a little bit more scrutiny of like, okay, is this actually saying what I want it to? It can go the other way too. It can – I’ve had – I think one of the subject lines that I emailed that I shared with you is actually like under promised.
“Yes. Well, I would say that the worst emails and worst subject lines to get are the ones that over promise, which are quite a few. I mean, that’s kind of the name of the game, right? It’s like over promise something, see if you can get someone to open it, and then we’ll go from there.”
[00:10:14] BB: Yes, I have some here. Under promised. But real quick, before we get into those, what is, just as you mentioned here, like over – Like what? Like I have the most fantastic story ever, and you should – Like what’s an over promise, where you’re like, “Okay, that’s not good.”?
[00:10:28] MS: Yeah. So I can give you – I don’t want to put anyone on blast but –
[00:10:32] BB: No, no, no. Don’t give us a real – But like what’s an example? Yeah, yeah. Give us it. Yeah. Go ahead.
[00:10:36] MS: So I get a ton. I just get a metric ton of NFT pitches because this is in my wheelhouse. I write about NFTs. I write about communities around NFTs. I write about the culture around them. So once you do one story, you will get a billion emails for the rest of your life about NFTs, and I do.
What I’ve seen a lot of the NFTs is that the company or the person who’s pitching the project will be somewhat related to something or someone that has name recognition. So like maybe the company that is launching this new NFT project also has done work for a musician or some sort of celebrity. So they will put in their subject line, like try to name drop that association and think that will make me more interested in it.
But then because I’m an open-all-emails person, I’ll open it and then see that the connection is like very loose, if not nonexistent. It’s like this person was not involved in this project. This person does not know what the hell you’re talking about. It’s really like sad.
Her Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes
[00:18:56] BB: Okay. Wow. We always love when we get live subject line examples. So thank you for giving that and shedding the light on us. No caps, everybody, please. We don’t need the caps. We don’t need caps. Just don’t, just don’t. Okay. Do you like exclusives or embargoes or neither?
[00:19:15] MS: Yeah. We do a lot of them. I write embargoes up almost every week. We get a lot. A lot comes through all of our inboxes. I am – We do exclusives. Those are really helpful. I mean, they’re great for, I think, The Verge. We like those.
Embargoes are helpful too. We can ask the questions that we have ahead of time so that there are no errors. There’s no confusion. I think it’s just overall like a really – I think it’s an effective way of getting your news out there and getting it out there correctly.
“I write embargoes up almost every week. We get a lot. A lot comes through all of our inboxes. I am – We do exclusives. Those are really helpful.”
[00:19:49] BB: So you do like those. Do you ever, though, prefer more of an exclusive? I know, given the companies you work with, you’re like, okay, Meta’s not giving you an exclusive I don’t think. But –
[00:20:01] MS: Yeah. I’ve worked on exclusives, and I think it’s great because we like to have – I mean, we’re a news organization. We like to have things first.
[00:20:11] BB: Of course.
[00:20:12] MS: It’s just kind of like the name of the game, and it’s nice when you have an exclusive, and you’re able to sit down with the people, the company, and talk it through. Maybe get an interview in and understand more in detail about what they’re wanting to share. But I think it just has to really like make sense, and everyone needs to be on the same page about what the terms of the embargo or the exclusive is.
The Verge has kind of a unique policy around something. So we like it when people know how we roll. If you’re not like that, then that’s great.
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