Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At…
On Season 2, Episode 15 of Coffee with a Journalist, Senior Editor at CE Pro Magazine Robert Archer sits down to chat with host Beck Bamberger. Robert’s work covers news and reviews around the consumer technologies and electronics space with a special focus on home audio products. In this episode, Beck and Robert dive into various topics from the differences of writing in the electronics trade space, his hometown sports team as a native Bostonian, the nuances of writing for a niche audience, and more!
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Thoughts on Pitching
Beck: So you might be one of the more interesting inbox questions. So we always like to know what’s in your inbox? Typically, when we chat with people here, they go, “Oh, I get hundreds of pitches a week. It’s crazy. I have to just delete them. They’re off topic, et cetera.” What does your inbox look like for pitches?
Robert: Honestly, it’s not that bad. I think having been doing this for a very long time, I know most of the marketing and PR people in the industry, and they’re pretty aware of what isn’t our scope of coverage. It does come up that I tell someone politely that that isn’t an area that we cover. But for the most part, it’s the typical thing, product reviews, product info, maybe questions about market trends or something similar. But for the most part, I have a really good working relationship with the PR and marketing people in the electronics industry.
Beck: Wow. We’ve never heard that before on this entire show – I have a good working relationship with the PR people. That is fantastic. So with your inbox then, how many pitches would you say you get a week?
Robert: Probably between 15 and 30.
Beck: Oh a week?
Robert: A month.
Beck: Oh a month. Oh gosh. That’s not crazy.
Robert: No. I think again, going back to that relationship part. The one really neat thing about the industry that I happen to work in or cover. It’s a very friendly environment. I’ve covered other industries and it’s very professional, very business-like, but the custom electronics market is very friendly. You noted that I’m from Boston. So people who know me know I’m from Boston, they know I follow the Bruins and the Patriots and they ask about that.
Beck: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’re a big fan. Yes. Oh, that’s cool. So they mention that in their pitches.
Robert: Yeah. Because they’ve gotten to know me over the years, so there’s a personal element that may be unique to the install industry. So any kind of email I get for story ideas is pretty succinct.
His Work Inbox
Beck: Full. Okay. Mm-hmm (affirmative). What else is in your inbox by the way? If it’s not pitches?
Robert: You know one of the things about being a trade publication is that we’re covering all aspects of the electronics industry. So not only does it include products, products are kind of the headline thing, but there’s manufacturer news, there’s dealer news. Under that umbrella of news, there could be many things such as trade associations. Unfortunately given the economy and in this COVID environment right now, there could be good news or bad news associated with personnel. There are lots of things going on in an industry, simply beyond products.
Beck: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you got to be up on all that stuff.
Robert: Yeah. It’s about keeping the reader informed.
Beck: What else are you reading? Not just for your industry, but just overall. Do you read The New Yorker, for example? We always like to know what journalists are reading.
Robert: This goes back to why I kept using the word fun. I read music magazine mostly. I also play guitar as a hobby. You could say it’s making noise, but I read a lot of guitar magazines and I love the products associated with the musical instrument industry.
Beck: I see you have guitars on your Twitter photo, too.
Beck: How many guitars do you own?
Robert: My wife would probably say too many, but around seven or so.
Beck: That’s not too many. That sounds just perfect.
Robert: There’s always room for another one, in my opinion.
How He Writes Stories
Beck: Oh man. Excellent. Well, what about making a story? I’m sure this is quite different than some other folks we talk to who are investigative news or trying to find some breaking exclusive, something like that. When you get a pitch, or let’s just say you don’t even look at a pitch, who’s to say, you tell us. How do you come to craft a story that you want to pursue?
Robert: For me, it’s all about servicing the reader, providing the reader the information that they find relevant to help their business.
Beck: And you’re thinking about the reader constantly. So you go, okay, does that reader want this? They’re going to want this review. If no, then you don’t do it.
Robert: Yes. You know the neat thing, and I suppose sports is like this too, where at the end of the day, it’s fun stuff. I always try to think to myself that at the end of the day, I’m writing about TVs and stereos and home control systems, fun things.
Beck: That is fun.
Robert: Yeah, exactly. Like sports, it would be fun to write about the Bruins or Patriots or whatever your thing is – cooking, whatever it may be. So I try to boil it down to those terms. So thinking through that kind of lens, I know that many of our readers are as passionate about those topics as I am. So, it’s being able to convert that into a story or convey that into a story that provides useful information.
Curious to hear more from other journalists writing in the tech space? Check out our blog recapping our Twitter chat, Twitter with a Journalist with Nick Pino of TechRadar. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to stay in the loop on future episodes.