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Coffee with a Journalist: Nathan Ingraham, Engadget

Coffee With A Journalist: Nathan Ingraham, Engadget

This week on Coffee with a Journalist we’re joined by Nathan Ingraham, deputy managing editor of Engadget. In his role, Nathan keeps track of the site’s daily news operations and also covers Google, Apple, gaming, apps and weird internet culture. Prior to Engadget, Nathan was a news editor and reporter for The Verge.

During the episode today, Nathan shares more about his role and responsibilities as deputy managing editor, the best way to approach him if you want to work together, why he appreciated brevity and camaraderie, and more. 

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

 

His Work Inbox 

[00:05:43] BB:  So how’s your inbox? 

[00:05:46] NI: Oh, boy. Honestly, my inbox is a super challenge, just generally speaking. I cleared it a little while ago, and I’ve got 164 things in it unread right now.

“…it looks like from 9 to 10 I got like 20 emails maybe that are still in my inbox.”

[00:05:57] BB: How long was a little while ago? Like yesterday?

[00:05:59] NI: A couple hours ago. 

[00:06:00] BB: Oh my God! A couple hours ago? And it’s back to 160?

[00:06:05] NI: Yeah, it looks like from 9 to 10 I got like 20 emails maybe that are still in my inbox. And some of those are stuff from our parent company and some a few internal things. I know you work with PR. So like there’s a ton of pitches here.

“But it’s funny, because you write about something once and you’ll get pitched about it forever.”

[00:07:40] BB: Mm-hmm. And now, do you have a filing system of sort? Flagging? Coloring system? No? Or you let it ride?

[00:07:47] NI: I wish I did. So I’m not one of those people who ever gets to like 10,000 unread like that I can’t do. So I try to like make sure at least every week I get it mostly clear. But yeah, I mean, for a while I use different labels in Gmail, or it’s a Google doc or a Google-based system. But I found that I don’t really use them much. So I just rely on search. And like there’re a couple of things where I’m like, “Okay, if I know I need to get back to this, I’ll flag it, or start, or whatever.” But my system is pretty unsophisticated, I would have to say.

 

His Thoughts on Pitches

00:06:23] BB: Yeah. Well, that’s the focus of the show is like, okay, how crazy is it with pitches? And what do you do about that? Because how do you keep up? And I know just everyone on Twitter right now especially is just saying like, “Oh, my God, funding announcements are off the charts. Everyone’s raising.” It’s a crazy time in tech. So what’s maybe the ratio of pitches you get?

[00:06:42] NI: Like in terms of stuff we would cover versus not?

“When I say respect my time, I mean, not going on for too long about something, getting the meat of the information to me as quickly as possible so we can do something with it. And then the best sources are ones who can kind of be available to go back and forth as needed. Be that once or 10 times. It’s finding that balance of camaraderie almost as well as brevity.”

[00:06:45] BB: Yeah.

[00:06:46] NI: Oh, god, it’s out of whack. Unfortunately, I don’t ever put any company or person in class, because I understand everybody’s got to get their job done. But the percentage of stuff that I get that isn’t really relevant is very, very high. So of those 150, like I’ll probably just go through and get rid of 75% right off the bat. Yeah, it’s tough. But I’ll say like the thing that works best for me is when I can build a relationship with somebody. And that happens when they know what we cover as a site. I don’t expect someone to know exactly what I cover. But I want to get the sense that they’ve looked at the website before they send the pitch. If they do all is, say, “Hey, like let me check us out.” Or I’ll say – I like to get to a point where I can say, “Look, I might not respond to everything you send, but I want you to know that if you send it, I’ll at least take a look. And when I have the bandwidth or interest, I will definitely like get back to you on it.”

 

How He Writes Stories 

[00:03:11] BB: Okay. Okay. Let’s focus. Let’s focus, Nathan. Alright, first, first, for those who are maybe not familiar, let’s do two things. One, how would you describe Endgadget for those who maybe don’t know, and then also more your role, because a lot of times we have reporters on here, or maybe an editor, but you have a little fancier bit of a title, which is Deputy Managing Editor. So let’s start with Endgadget. 

[00:03:29] NI: Yeah. So Endgadget has been around for about 15 years. One of the kind of originators of technology blogging back when like cell phones were new and exciting and like the computer industry was changing constantly. And we’ve evolved from the sort of blogy routes to being a site that covers basically, however, technology touches culture and society. So we’re still a very product-focused in that way. We still write about the things you should and shouldn’t buy, and what’s good, and what the big companies are doing. But we also try to do like Zoom-out and do bigger picture stories on how tech is impacting different parts of your daily life. So be that economics, or politics, or obviously we do gaming. Yeah, there’re a lot of sites that are doing stuff like that, but we’ve got a really long history in that business, which is nice.

[00:04:13] BB: Yeah, they are definitely the originators on all things tech. And then tell us a little bit more on your function. 

[00:04:20] NI: Yep. So Deputy Managing Editor is a fancy title. That means my responsibilities cover our sort of short form news coverage primarily, which is the sort of bread and butter. News comes up. We want to get on the site quickly, ideally within the hour or sometimes within 10 minutes. So kind of the short, fast turnaround 300 to 500 word stories. I do a lot of looking for that news. I vet it with other editors. I assign it to the right writers. I help them get the post at the door.

Someone once said that like I had a hand in like a quarter of their work, basically like they write most of these posts. Like you sort of get like partial credit for everything I publish. But I’m not doing that. I still do reporting editing and writing when I can. So it’s really like a balancing act of like what’s going on a given day. That depends on what I can do.

“So yeah, I’ll say when I’m thinking about something besides like immediate news coverage, it comes out of what’s happening in the news for me. That’s kind of like my primary idea, inspiration places, is like responding to what’s going on.”

[00:05:08] BB: Yeah, you had this iPad piece that came out, YouTube. You used talk about Microsoft, IKEA. Oh, look at them building these speakers. Wow! Yeah, lots of fun stuff.

[00:05:18] NI: I do a lot of speaker stuff lately. It’s kind of like a personal interest thing. But I also write a lot of coverage of Google and Apple and kind of weird Internet stuff occasionally. I like to dabble in games. I don’t have like a single heartbeat, which is kind of fun. I kind of need to know – 

[00:10:23] BB: Nathan, given your wide array that you can cover at your leisure when you do have the ability to do so, how do you come up with inspiration for a story? Are you in the shower? Are you like – Is there a way this happens? And then sometimes, does any of it actually come from a pitch?

[00:10:57] NI: Yes, sometimes definitely. Again, like the people who I talk to on a regular basis kind of know where we’re going with things and know that’s usually more like the straight news kind of stuff, right? Like they’ll have some news. And I’ll be like, “Yeah, like sometimes that’ll be a jumping off point for a bigger story. So yeah, I’ll say when I’m thinking about something besides like immediate news coverage, it comes out of what’s happening in the news for me. That’s kind of like my primary idea, inspiration places, is like responding to what’s going on. 

So an example of that is a couple months ago, Apple redesigned the iMac, and they made some major design changes. And I couldn’t help but notice that on the back of the base model there’s only two USB C ports on their laptops, and before the iMac had a whole array of ports. So it could be like a true proper desktop computer. And I started thinking, well, there are probably some people who are mad about that, which is not that interesting. But it also might forecast the direction that they’re going to keep going. At the same time, they’ve been lots of rumors about the next MacBook Pro that they’re going to make. And supposedly Apple is going to bring back some of the ports and accessibility stuff that they removed four or five years ago, which is not something they usually do. Anyway, this is all to say that those two things made me think, “Okay, let’s break down what they’re doing here and what it might mean for the future of what they’re going to do with their computers.” So that’s like a news reaction kind of story. I hate to call it a hot take, but it’s a little bit in that vein of like, “Ooh! Something happened. And I have this response that I just have to put on the Internet about it,” right? That’s like the most basic and kind of fast turnaround stuff that we do and that I like to do, is just being plugged into what’s happening the news cycle in finding stuff where I know that part of the industry well enough to just quickly like, “Okay, what’s my like reaction to what’s going on here? Is that reaction worth sharing?” Like let’s work shopping and say – Right, it’s not just blast off the first thing that comes to your mind, is to put that idea through at least a little bit of rigor, and vetting with some other editors. And then they say, “Yeah, you’ve got something here.”

And another example recently was Google was going to make some changes to how it handled third-party cookies. It was going to stop allowing them and use its own kind of new technology to do that to offer similar ways to see what people are browsing without being as invasive and filling them around the Internet. And my first reaction to that was, “Oh, I think Google might be doing this because they’ve been putting so much antitrust pressure, and so much like tracking pressure that they’re trying to get ahead of that and move to something that’s a little bit less evil, so to speak. I mean, Google that uses third-party cookies.

But it turns out I was kind of wrong about that, because they got a lot of pushback on that, because cookies are such a standard. And what they were doing is not a proven standard. So they are actually putting that apostrophe where they continue to refine the idea. So it’s a case where like my initial reaction wasn’t right. But that’s going to happen sometimes, because you don’t have all the information. But yeah, that’s kind of another example of how –

 

Audience Ask

[00:09:01] BB: Keywords fall. Oh, God. Okay. So, ooh, we do have an audience ask I’m going to ask you, Nathan. Okay, we got somebody here. Let me scan down. This person, Jocelyn Brandeis, JBLH Communications is asking, “If a PR person could grant you one magical request, what would it be?”

[00:09:22] NI: Read the site and understand what we cover before you email, because it makes it way more likely that you’ll get a response.

[00:09:30] BB: Yeah.

[00:09:31] NI: And I just want to get a sense of knowing that we’re going to both get some value out of the time spent in the interaction, if you know what I mean. For example, like I still get – This is funny. Back when I was at The Verge, for a little while I wrote a few music related things. We kind of like covered whatever there whatever we felt like. And so I wrote a few like top songs were listening to this week. Kind of little short things. Took some feedback from other people to staff and just publish those for a bit. And I think because of that, I’m still getting pitches about musicians. And I’m personally interested in it sometimes. And so occasionally those actually have some value to it. But it’s funny, because you write about something once and you’ll get pitched about it forever. And I think maybe that’s actually a better way to frame what I was saying is that it makes you know what the person’s currently doing. Just because they hit something once back in the day doesn’t mean it’s a relevant subject matter for them now.

[00:10:23] BB: Yeah. Oh, it’s so hard, because you’re just trying to predict and trying to figure out. Well, this is what OnePitch is solving. So there you go. That’s our thing. Okay. Hopefully we answered that question, Jocelyn, because she was asking.

 

________

 

When it comes to pitches, Nathan appreciates short emails with the “meat and potatoes” front and center. He also wants anyone pitching him to appreciate his time, and definitely DO NOT send a pitch to his personal email.

For more great 1:1 conversations with journalists from top-tier outlets, subscribe to the Coffee with a Journalist podcast to get the latest episode drops. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for other updates on our newest PR tips, tools, and best practices.

Jered Martin

Jered is the co-founder, COO and support manager at OnePitch. He handles operations for OnePitch; along with strategy, support, business development and hiring. He studied Communications with an emphasis in marketing at Cal State University Long Beach. In his free time, he enjoys surfing, eating cheap street food, cooking, and exploring the outdoors.

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