Today on the podcast, we’re joined by Ryan Barwick, a reporter for Morning Brew. Ryan specifically covers media, advertising and technology for the Marketing Brew newsletter. Prior to joining the Morning Brew team, Ryan was a reporter for Adweek and was a broadcast associate for CBS News.
During the episode, Ryan tells us about cleanroom technology, ways he builds relationships with sources, his favorite writer and current read, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
[00:05:47] BB: It is fun. It is fun. That’s great. Ryan, how is your inbox?
[00:05:54] RB: My inbox right now, I have two unread emails, because I’m saving them for this afternoon because they pertain to a story. But otherwise, I am very militant on reading, or at least opening every email in my inbox.
“But I have my email open, like literally all day. I just told my editor to this. I believe I sent like 65 emails yesterday, which I’m not proud of, and hopefully that’ll carry me through for the next couple of weeks.”
[00:06:08] BB: Oh, wow. Okay, your way on the other side of the spectrum. So, every email, you’re going to open?
[00:06:14] RB: Every email. Now, granted, usually I can see it like, I mean –
His Thoughts on Pitches
00:07:47] BB: Then that’s good. It works for you. That’s what it’s about. So, given you read every email, does the subject line then at all matter?
[00:07:57] RB: That’s a great question. Not really. I often find that like, a lot of emails that I get with the subject line that say exclusive, I tend to think that that’s usually not that relevant to me. Exclusive to me is a story that I’m breaking myself that I’m doing the reporting on like a scoop. I’m getting an exclusive through our agency, it’s usually – I like to do that reporting on my terms. Every once in a while, something will come through, if I have a relationship with a specific company, something will happen. But if I don’t know you, and it says exclusive in the subject line, my eyes are going to roll pretty hard. However, I will probably still read it. I’m going to think too hard about it.
“People in PR know, like, if I see that, like this email was written as a template, and it didn’t come from a company that – like it didn’t come from the PR companies I hire, then like, after four years of doing this, my eyes just instantly glaze over and I know how to move on to the next thing. So yeah, if I see a template, I’m opening that bad boy, and I’m probably not going back in there.”
[00:08:48] BB: That’s also rare, I think I’ve heard. Because some people have their whole thing on Inbar was an exclusive and how much time you give me for an exclusive, but you have the interesting answer of, “No, it has to be exclusive that I do, that I’m breaking, like a scoop.” Wow, okay.
[00:09:07] RB: Well, if I have a relationship with you, and if you want to have a relationship with me, find me on Twitter, I will talk to literally as many people as possible. That’s the best part reporting. I love reporting. I love meeting new people. However, like I’m very fortunate at Morning Brew, where I don’t really – maybe this is unique to my beat, but I don’t really write stories on pitches, but I will find people to talk to on pitches. If I’m writing a story about people needing to go back in the office and I get an email from an agency, a creative agency, and they say, “Oh, we’re putting out a press release because we’re changing our policy.” Well, okay, that’s like supernatural. I want to talk to that person. So, I find sources to talk to, but rarely do I find stories from pitches, I guess, does that make sense?
His Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes
[00:14:20] BB: Okay, we talked some exclusives, Ryan, for just a quick second, and we know you want to do your own exclusives as in a scoop. Do you ever do anything with embargoes? Or what’s your preference with those?
[00:14:31] RB: Yeah, I generally like, first of all, please do not send an email with the entire press release. And then at the bottom, say, “This is embargo until Friday.” That’s not how it works. Granted, I’m not going to write a story on that anyway. But that’s not how it works. And if you’re working in PR, you no better. You’re all very smart people. But as far as embargoes, I’ll say, “Hey, we have an embargo. Can you agree to it?” Yes, I will always say yes, because I’m very curious what’s on the other side of that and we respect embargoes. Previously, our newsletter only went out three times a week, so it could be a little pricey to be like, “Oh, okay, well, we don’t have a newsletter.” It’ll come out on Friday, not Thursday. Now, we’re five times a week, so that’s less of a concern.
[00:15:15] BB: Okay. Yeah, because you’re –
[00:15:17] RB: Yeah, I accept and respect embargo, and it’s always funny when embargo is lifted, and 10 writers all wrote the same story. That’s always fun.
[00:15:25] BB: Yeah. Does that piss you off?
[00:15:28] RB: No. I mean, it’s just kind of a nature of the business. I would hope that each 10 reporter has their own unique spin on something. I will say, I’m not that original and creative. But think Morning Brew, we get the flexibility to have fun. So, I would hope, obviously, the reporters that the Associated Press are complete bad asses. But I would hope Morning Brew, voice is exciting enough.
How He Writes Stories
[00:10:56] BB: Also, that. How do you then come up with, “Oh, I really want to get into that long form story or like, go deep into that piece.”
[00:11:08] RB: Something I kind of pay attention to or like, tools the industry is using. I’ve written multiple stories about, okay, there’s this new technology that a company is selling, or that the industry is beginning to adopt, and there are different versions of this, whether that is a cleanroom technology, or I did a story about these companies that they create lists of publishers for brands. So, if I’m Ryan’s brand, and I don’t want to be on these sites, there’s a company that kind of comes in, they’re called brand safety companies that kind of come in and do that work.
“But I think like, to my point, we’ve had a lot of success with these kinds of stories where you take a very confusing topic like data and ad tech, and then you write it in in a – I try to write it in English, which I don’t think the industry does a very good job of.”
So, I like to pick like, this is something we talk a lot about, something that’s very narrow story that also goes very deep. Those stories are really exciting to me and those are the ones that like, because it’s a newsletter, there’s a lot of other stuff I write that I write pretty quickly. But those are the stories that I’m actually like proud of and are actually indicative of the beat that I’m working.
[00:12:07] BB: And again, because you read every single email. In the last maybe a year, in 2021, did anything this long in depth ever come from a pitch?
[00:12:17] RB: Yes, actually.
Many of the stories Ryan covers are not from pitches but rather from information sources provide him. On occasion, he may cover a pitch, but not word-for-word, especially if it ties into a bigger industry trend that he’s uncovered through his own research.
Learn more about Ryan’s pitching preferences and more by watching his journalist spotlight videos, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast newsletter below.
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