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Coffee with a Journalist: Stephanie Talmadge, Bustle

Coffee With A Journalist: Stephanie Talmadge, Bustle

Today on Coffee with a Journalist, we’re joined by Stephanie Talmadge, editorial director of newsletters at Bustle. Within her role, Stephanie manages a team that oversees BDG newsletters across the company.

During the episode, Stephanie talks about pitches from both sources and journalists, email as an outlet for media companies, some of her previous work in journalism, and more.

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


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Her Role

00:01:59] BB: Yes. First, let’s talk about your role and what you are now covering Stephanie, because it recently changed and so, things are different.

[00:02:07] ST: Things are different, things are very exciting. So, I have a background in newsletters. And when I originally came to Bustle, I was in addition to editing the sex and dating stories as a deputy editor at Bustle, I also helped launch their new daily newsletter, which is kind of a rundown of the day’s top trending stories, but also specifically highlighting Bustle’s latest and greatest stories. It’s very conversational. It’s fun, it’s jokey. So, I was putting that together every day as well.

“So, I get a mix of pitches from publicist and a lot of pitches from fellow journalists as well, looking to write for Bustle.”

And our BTG, which is the company where Bustle lives under is just really excited about email right now, for a number of reasons that we can get into a little bit later.

[00:02:55] BB: I do want to get into that, but go ahead, yes.

“When you highlight something in the newsletter, you know that it’s going to go out to everyone you see, or everyone who is signed up rather.”

[00:02:58] ST: But yeah, so they decided to kind of have me start this new team. And I’m working on building that team out right now, and we’re going to be kind of revamping some of the other newsletters across the company to have a little bit more of an editorial touch than they do right now.


Her Thoughts on Subject Lines

[00:04:54] BB: Understood, so is there, Stephanie, this is just one of the questions we typically cover on here, whether it be recently or recently as in from weeks ago, when you had your other job. Do you have a best subject line you ever received?

[00:05:10] ST: Oh, that I’ve ever received?

[00:05:11] BB: Or recently.

[00:05:13] ST: From a publicist or a journalist or either?

[00:05:16] BB: Oh, either. We’ll take anything. Oh, journalist send you? Oh, because they want to pitch to write on Bustle, huh?

“And also, email marketing 101, you never want to mislead somebody with a subject line from what their content of the email actually is.”

[00:05:23] ST: Right. Yes, exactly.

[00:05:24] BB: Tell us what journalists are pitching you, yes.

[00:05:28] ST: Well, as well, as a person who was in the sex and dating space, there are certain words that might grab you in a subject line. You can imagine. Also, envision your only email inbox, right? And I see this with the newsletters that I send as well, basically anything, because, I’m writing subject lines every day myself. So, I’m also thinking about this, too. Anything with sex, that’s going to get an open, anything with porn that’s going to get an open.

[00:06:04] BB: How was your stuff not all in spam?

[00:06:06] ST: That’s a good question, actually.

[00:06:09] BB: I’m really curious.

[00:06:10] ST: It’s something that email marketers, we talk about that. But typically, if you are sending from an email address, or a sender address that has a strong sender reputation, it’s not really an issue whether you have a sex or a porn in there. So, it still gets to the right place. I can’t think of an exact subject line that was just an all-time, all-around winner. But I love from publicists specifically, I love anything that is going to let me know, right from go that they have data to share, or there’s a new feature to share. Anything that is directly relevant to the beat that has a newsie hook is probably going to get an open from me got it.


Her Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes

[00:10:00] BB: This is good. I like it. Okay. Do you ever run across embargoes exclusives? I don’t think so. But I got to ask.

[00:10:07] ST: I do. I’ve worked with some of the dating apps, especially when they’ve launched new features, to kind of get word out about those.

[00:10:18] BB: Do you like any exclusive embargo? Or like, does it pertain to you anymore? That’s a better question.

[00:10:22] ST: Right now, I can’t imagine that we would like announce something in a newsletter like that, I would probably send it along to one of the other editors on site, just because I don’t think it would be the best. I mean, I would love to have exclusive announcement in the Bustle newsletter. But I think from the publicist standpoint that they would want that to live on site somewhere, since the newsletter is a bit more ephemeral, right?


How She Build Relationships

[00:07:36] BB: Exactly. Stephanie, for the times that we’re in now, it’s very hard, of course, to see people in person, but that is coming back. How does one attempt to make a relationship with you these days?

[00:07:50] ST: That’s a great question. I, and again, same goes for journalists and publicist. I love when somebody just reaches out and introduces themselves. I mean, just, “Hey, I am so and so. I recently started working with XYZ.” Or not. Or like I recently stumbled across this, just kind of explains the impetus for the reach out. I’m fairly comfortable meeting people in person, so I’m happy to do coffee, or drinks or lunch, whatever I have. This is a maybe a taboo confession, I have never done a deskside ever. So, I feel like deskside is for me one of those almost like corporate garbage lingo words, right? Let’s just have a chat for 15 minutes. I’m social, I love to meet people, especially if you’re working with a client who’s well in the beat. I might not respond to every introduction email, if you are working for, let’s say, like a nontoxic nail polish brand. That’s probably not going to come up in my beat.

“And yeah, I think just a simple reach out, this is who I am. This is why I’m contacting you today. I’d love to set up a time to tell you about XYZ over coffee, drinks, lunch, whatever, and kind of leave it at that.”

But I love to take meetings with publicists who are working on brands that we would cover. And that’s also a little bit different now that my role has shifted, the newsletters kind of cover all the content areas that Bustle covers. So, that’s a pretty big umbrella of general interest. And yeah, I think just a simple reach out, this is who I am. This is why I’m contacting you today. I’d love to set up a time to tell you about XYZ over coffee, drinks, lunch, whatever, and kind of leave it at that. I think it just really helps to put in a name with a face behind the email. And once I have that relationship with somebody, I’m always going to open any email that they send me.

[00:09:51] BB: Oh, always open. This is key information stuff.

[00:09:55] ST: If we have coffee, I’m paying attention to your emails a thousand percent.




Nowadays, Stephanie’s role involves less writing news stories and more curating the newsletters are Bustle. She does mention she LOVES talking to academics and that if you pitch her cold, start with a simple introduction of your company.

Learn more about previous guests on Coffee with a Journalist and their pitching preferences, relationship building tips, and more in our journalist spotlight videos.

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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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