Joining us this week on Coffee with a Journalist is Manasa Gogineni of VentureBeat. As…
On Coffee with a Journalist this week, we’re joined by Victoria Song of Gizmodo. As a consumer tech reporter at Gizmodo, Victoria covers the news, product reviews, and in-depth features surrounding consumer tech products. During the episode today, Victoria talks about the madness surrounding CES, how she organizes her sources in her inbox, how she approaches reviewing consumer products, her simple rule for email follow-ups, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Work Inbox
BB: Well, let’s start with your Inbox. How crazy is it? How are the pitches? Tell us everything.
VS: Oh boy! I actually like have anxiety every day just looking at my inbox, because I was out of work yesterday because of the dose two of the Pfizer completely knocked me out. I woke up today with like 130 emails in my inbox, which is not terrible. It’s worst when it’s something like CES, which is a big tradeshow for consumer tech, it’s the biggest electronic show and that is just 20,000 pitches every freaking second and you’re just like, “Oh! I can’t keep up.” But like right now, it’s just a lot of pitches for stuff that’s not on my beat, so it’s sort of like, “Okay! You can’t miss anything just in case someone you actually like work with frequently is sending you something. But at the same time, I have to take several, like 15 minutes sections out of my day to be like, “Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no, no, no.” Sound like a big inbox 0% person.
“What type of subject line gets you an open? The really short ones.”
BB: Got it, Now, do you ever file pitches that you ever come back to. I know some people use like a filing system or you’re like one of the master leaders and it’s gone?
VS: I archive just because you never know. I use a mail client, I use Spark, which I think is pretty great, because sometimes you’re like, “Oh! I really need to get back to this person. I have some questions or they have questions for me, but I don’t have the time right now so I’ll just snooze an email saw this email for a time where I know it’ll be a lot less hectic. It will disappear from my inbox and I come back at the right time. It also has like this really great integration with to-do list, which is my To-Do app and like I can just — It’s really great because I can make that a to-do from the app so that I don’t miss anything.
“Like I live for reader emails. I actually get more nice emails than I do like really mean ones, though I do get really mean ones.”
Her Thoughts on Pitches
Below, Beck asks Victoria about subject lines in pitches:
BB: No, no, no, okay. It almost sounds kind of like a little headline, a mini headline.
VS: Yeah, yeah. Like actually, like a really interesting one that just came in, like just came in was someone I don’t recognize their name, but they actually put in the subject line something that I have written about a while, like EMF protection hats and shungite pendants. I’m like, “Oh! I’ve written about that.” That kind of catches my eye because it means that this person has at least done some homework about what I actually cover, or whether that might actually be of thing and it’s just — sometimes it turned out to be something that’s really useful, and then other times, it’s totally not so I feel a little resentful. Where it’s just like, “Oh! Here’s a subject line of something that I know you covered and I’ll mention that I read it.” The first sentence, “Here’s something that is completely irrelevant to your beat not anything you could cover and I’m like —
“It’s sort of like, you scan for keywords where if it’s just like — sometimes if it’s really opaque, like I got one that says, “Tech revives retail industry.” I’m like, I don’t know what that means and it’s probably like when I’m going through 130 emails and making split decisions about whether to archive it or not. That’s not going to get me.”
How She Writes Stories
BB: Victoria, what is your process for coming up with stories. Maybe even the first question is, do pitches ever revert to stories?
“I actually come up with my best pitches while I’m running.”
VS: For me, a lot of times, pitches may not. Not like in a direct way where someone pitches me a story and I’m like, “Oh yeah! I’m definitely going to write that because it’s sort of — sometimes you’re just like, “Well, this pitch has an agenda in that sense.” But sometimes, a pitch will be like, “Do you want to talk to this expert?” I might bookmark the expert just in case, like I’m working on a time-sensitive thing and I need to reach out to someone who actually could respond in a quick manner. But like when it comes to actually pitching, like not quick hit news stories, I actually do best when I’m just talking with my teammates, or just my editors. Where we’ll be riffing about something in my coverage area. Then it will be like, “Well, that’s really interesting. Why don’t we flash that out?” It’s health hazard.
I’ve literally tried to have a process that was more structured and defined before and it just never works. It’s just that. But I also do a lot of running from my beat, because I review wearables and smart watches. There’s a lot of running involved to test those things.
BB: I love that. You’re getting fit and doing your job. Love it.
“…a lot of people think reviewers or just tech journalists are so eager to tear a company apart. That couldn’t be further from the truth actually.”
Here Victoria shares insight into how she approaches product reviews:
BB: By the way, what an extensive review. I mean, you get into the details. This is like at thousand plus word piece. I mean, wow. So you better send Victoria good stuff.
VS: I was actually really conflicted doing that review, because like a lot of people think reviewers or just tech journalists are so eager to tear a company apart. That couldn’t be further from the truth actually. Like most products are pretty decent, like you want it to be good. You’re always rooting for it to be good, and you want it to be fair because you’re thinking about, “Okay. Who wants to buy this thing?” Who might be interested in this and doesn’t work for that particular user, does it work for everybody else? There’s so many different things that usually most of the things that you review aren’t going to be categorically negative.
In this section of the interview, Victoria shares about her cat, Pablo:
BB: You also write about CES coming back. Oh Lord! You had a break but now you’re back. Let’s do this parts, Victoria, the kind of film of like — by the way, that’s your cat, right?
VS: Yeah. It’s my cat, Pablo. He’s a very fat, very opinionated cat. He’s actually a published vlogger on Gizmodo because —
BB: Look at that.
VS: Because a for a while, he was just very upset that we weren’t paying attention to him during pandemic. He would just sit on my keyboard, and just start typing and deleting graphs from my vlogs.
BB: Oh my God! He’s one of those fat cats.
VS: Yeah. I was just like, “Fine! You want to vlog, you’ll vlog.” So I kind of wrote about the experience, and then at the end included whatever it was that he wrote. It was a complete gibberish but it was fun.
BB: Oh my gosh! I love that. Now, I got to go check out the cat vlog.
When it comes to consumer tech pitches, Victoria pays close attention to subject lines that are short and specific. She also loves receiving reader emails about her work. If you’re curious what other journalists like receiving in pitches, read our latest blog, 50 Tips for Pitching Journalists, to learn exactly what each of these journalists wants in a pitch.
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.