Are you looking for pitching insights directly from journalists? As a follow-up to the State…
This week’s guest on Coffee with a Journalist is Simon Cohen from Digital Trends. Simon is a Contributing Editor for Digital Trends’ Entertainment and Home Theater sections covering consumer audio and video products. On the episode, Simon shares more about being a technology reviewer and the influx of products he receives, how he reads every email that lands in his inbox, how to craft a winning pitch for him, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
BB: I got you. Okay. Wow, got you. Well, instead of what’s happening in the household with all the gear, what about your inbox? How is your inbox?
SC: Yeah. The inbox is non-stop I have to say. I know some people practice inbox zero. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m like in box infinity. This just – It’s never ending.
I’m going to say on any given day between 10 and 15 pitches.
BB: Okay. Wait a second. Wait a second. As in you just let it ride with the unreads or you read them all or what would we say?
SC: Yeah. Well, I mean, I would say that I read everything that comes into my inbox. If anyone is pitching me out there and you’re wondering why I haven’t responded, it’s not because I haven’t read it. That’s for sure. I read every single email that I get but I just don’t have time to file them or decide whether I’m deleting them or keeping them, so I just let it ride. I think I’ve probably got well over 5,000 emails in my inbox right now.
His Thoughts on Pitches
SC: Yeah, I know. People have been pretty good about not filling my inbox with pitches on a daily basis, but what’s not so great is most of those pitches are not actually targeted at me.
BB: Okay. Despite your low volume, the quality is also extremely low.
SC: Yeah. I mean, it really depends on – Some people, PR folks know me. We’ve got a personal relationship. They know when to pitch me, when not to pitch me, but I also seem to get a ton of sort of PR blasts through services and that stuff. It’s just not targeted.
My favorite publicist always reaches out to me first with an exclusive.
BB: Yeah, not at all. Now, you said when to pitch you and when not to pitch you. When do we pitch you and when do we not pitch you?
SC: Like during the day.
SC: Or times a day.
BB: Do you have kind of a prep? Do you have like Friday I wish to have my pitches? I don’t know. Do you have a preference?
SC: Well, I mean, it really depends on how timely it is. If it’s timely, pitch me immediately. If it’s embargoed, any time of day is fine. If it’s something that really ought to –
…let’s say we’re talking about some kind of brand new sound system that’s never been seen before, and there’s a lot of technical aspects to it, a longer embargo time is really appreciated.
BB: Wait though. Wait though because we’ve been talking about this in a variety of circles. Embargo time. How much time do you want in order to write a piece if it’s going to be under –
SC: Good question. Yeah. It really depends on the nature of the piece. If it is a really fairly complex piece that’s under embargo, like let’s say we’re talking about some kind of brand new sound system that’s never been seen before, and there’s a lot of technical aspects to it, a longer embargo time is really appreciated. It gives me time to really think about it and get in touch with follow-up questions. Maybe even conduct an interview if necessary, as opposed to something where it’s just like a new set of headphones that pretty much have more or less the same features that other headphones have out there. But maybe it’s just a lower price or something. That like 24 hours is more than enough time.
I mean, you should absolutely make a really concise summary at the top so that I understand exactly what I’m getting myself into.
How He Writes Stories
BB: Okay. 24 hours. It’s pretty good. What takes – This might be a different type of answer given the type of stuff you do, Simon, which is very specific. It’s hardware. It’s an audio. It’s in home theater. Okay. That seems a little obvious. But in thinking of creating a piece, are you ever just like meandering, taking a walk? You’re in the shower and you’re like, “You know what? I haven’t done,” like this article you did in February, the best Netflix hacks tips and tricks. How do you come up with a great story that you want to do?
It’s really conversations that trigger a lot of this stuff.
SC: It’s very impromptu. I find that conversations are often the biggest driver for new ideas. So I’ll be chatting with my editor, Caleb, and he’ll mention something like, “We really need to update our streaming device coverage.” That will trigger a thought that had been lurking in the back of my head, which was, “You know what? I’d really like to find out how many of these streaming devices will let you connect a USB webcam for doing Zoom chats on an actual TV.” I said, “We should do something on that. Let’s help people figure out if they can do that with their device. If not, what device do they need to buy to be able to do that?” It’s really conversations that trigger a lot of this stuff.
BB: So you’re just chatting it up?
Simon goes on to share more about the volume of products for review he receives.
BB: Okay. But you were saying you have a lot of just tech gear, tech stuff all over the place.
SC: I do, yeah. I mean, as a technology reviewer specializing in audio and video, I probably – It’s a bit of a running joke in our household. The door rings probably twice a day with another set of ear buds or headphones that had been sent to me.
BB: And now, of course, because the COVID’s coming to your doorstep, not the office. Oh, my.
SC: Right. It’s a constant battle not only to deal with the incoming hardware but also just to find a place to keep this stuff because I don’t just sort of review it and then immediately send it back. I quite often keep the stuff on hand so that I can compare it to every new set of headphones that comes in.
When it comes to Simon’s coverage it’s all about having tangible products for him to test how they are incorporated into everyday life. When it comes to pitching, there are different ways to reach editors vs reports and B2B writers vs B2C. Check out the latest eBook, The State of Pitching, to learn about other journalist’s pitching preferences from the first 50 guests of Season 2 on Coffee with a Journalist.
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, follow us on Twitter for other updates on our newest PR tips, tools, and best practices.