Victoria Song, a consumer tech reporter at Gizmodo, joined us on the Coffee with a…
Our guest on the show today is Scott Nover, an emerging industries reporter for Quartz, where he writes about the internet and emerging technology. Prior to Quartz, Scott was a platforms reporter for Adweek. In 2019, he was named a finalist for the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism for his reporting at The Atlantic, and he also founded and served as the first editor-in-chief of MediaFile, a student-run media criticism website.
During the show, Scott shares specifics about his beat and coverage, his approach to working with sources, how he takes pride in his written work, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
[00:03:59] BB: Oh, it is. That’s a whole other area of interest. But tell us about your inbox. Is it obscene with pitches or what?
[00:04:08] SN: It’s a mess. It is really a mess. I used to think I was very on top of my inbox. And as I have – Even, I just started this job a few months ago. I was at Adweek before this and just moved over to Quartz in May. And even right when I started, I tried to be very organized about my inbox. I’m like an inbox zero person. I read every email, or I just click on it. But in the past I’ve been good about like keeping organized. And my inbox is just a mess. No one knows what I write about and not for the most part. I don’t even know how to explain what I write about. So there’s a lot of stuff in there.
[00:04:48] BB: Yeah. How many are you getting would you say a week, pitches?
[00:04:52] SN: I’m looking at my work email and I get some pitches to like a personal email or like a secure email. And there’s a full page of emails just from today. So that’s 50. Let’s see.
“I definitely search my inbox if there’s something, if there’s a term that is coming up and that’s an easy way to do that. I can say, ‘Oh, who’s pitched me about –’”
[00:05:05] BB: Okay. Oh god. We’re talking just today.
[00:05:06] SN: There’s about 75 just today, just in one email address.
[00:05:12] BB: You have multiple email addresses.
[00:05:13] SN: I have a personal email and I have a ProtonMail, like a secured account. And so, I mean, yeah. But I like people to pitch me in my like work email, but things find it their way to me wherever I am.
His Thoughts on Pitches
[00:05:27] BB: Well. What makes you open a pitch especially if you’re getting 75 in a day? Is it the subject line? Is it do you try to do what you were mentioning earlier, you try to get it open at least and then quickly go by it or what?
“And so yeah, I mean, I think the pitches that are successful are ones that bring something to my attention that I wasn’t thinking about…”
[00:05:43] SN: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s definitely like something has to raise my eyebrows and it has to be something that’s not just like interesting but something I would write about. And it’s hard. I get it. It’s hard as it comes further to known. It’s hard for me to explain what I write about. But like for example, there’re just a million NFT pitches in my inbox. And, well, I’ve written about non-fungible tokens in the past. I’m also now writing about every single celebrity who has released some sort of crypto project. And so yeah, I mean, I think the pitches that are successful are ones that bring something to my attention that I wasn’t thinking about, or they provide some sort of access to an interesting person, or they have an interesting website that I might not be aware of and they just want to like set up an introductory call with the CEO or something. So I feel like that’s kind of what breaks through.
How He Writes Stories
[00:02:08] BB: Yeah. So tell us real quick here, emerging industries.
[00:02:12] SN: Yeah, it’s very vague.
[00:02:14] BB: Ooh, it is. Do tell.
[00:02:15] SN: Sure. So basically, I write about the Internet, and I write about interesting business stories on the Internet and that has a lot to do with social media, and people getting famous online and making money online and things like that. So any weird kind of Internet stories you’ve heard of in the last six months, I’ve probably had some sort of piece on NFTs, meme stocks, influencers, things like that. That’s kind of my niche.
“But I think – And this is a different you know conversation than PR people, but I think understanding like what different outlets do and why they do it is really – It can be hard. It can be opaque. But it’s really important.”
[00:02:44] BB: Got it. With everything on the Internet, which is such a rabbit hole, I imagine what attracts you and what’s interesting from a pitch perspective changes week by week, right?
[00:02:55] SN: Yeah, for sure. I mean, yeah, my work is different every single week. This week I am writing about pornography, and I’m writing about fantasy football.
[00:03:05] BB: Totally the same thing.
[00:03:07] SN: Exactly. And in the other weeks I’m writing about AMC and GameStop, or about college athletes, or just – There are so many things on the internet back, and I try to do something to serve everyone.
[00:06:40] BB: Mm-hmm. Okay. My, I’m not jealous of your multiple inboxes to say the least. What makes you write a story? Does it ever come from a pitch or are you going on like your daily walk and you go, “Ah, I really want to do a story on South Korea passing the first law for free app creators.” I saw that as a story. What do you do? Is there something that strikes you?
[00:07:05] SN: Yes, but there are pitches that turn into stories, but they’re probably few and far between. And I think there’s a lot of times when news breaks. And what I’m trying to do as a journalist who works for kind of like an online magazine is to find an interesting angle or an interesting way into a story. And what that requires is you know some sort of insight or some sort of unique spin on it. And that comes from following a story for a long time, but it also comes from talking to people and building relationships and having access to smart people. So I think like that’s why I say sometimes those emails that are like you should talk to my founder, or my CEO, or this really smart guy that is on our staff. Those can be most helpful. Because when I’m thinking about some sort of topic and I think of that person, it’s just need to give a call to make, because the ice has kind of been broken and I know that that person can say something smart about it.
When it comes to pitches and sources, Scott has great examples of how you can connect with him. They include being authentic and easygoing, adding keywords to your subject line, and offer commentary only if the source can directly relate to the news.
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