Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At…
Over the past two years, we have interviewed over 60 journalists on the Coffee with a Journalist podcast. These journalists include editors, reporters, and freelancers who write for a variety of news and trade publications including TechCrunch, Digiday, Adweek, Quartz, Fortune, Time Magazine, and many more.
On each episode, we sit 1:1 with journalists to understand who they are, what they write about, their thoughts on pitches, how they connect with sources, what their inbox looks like, and get a more personal view of them as individuals.
For the second season of Coffee with a Journalist, which launched in October of 2019, we decided to analyze the responses from journalists and compile a report titled, The State of Pitching. To view the entire report, plus tips & tricks directly from these 50 journalists, click below to download.
This report is a comprehensive overview of 50 reporters, editors, and freelancers from 39 various top tier and trade publications with a print & digital presence. The report looks at 3 different subject areas including pitches, inbox, and beat/coverage. For each of the 3 areas, journalists were analyzed across their role, audience, and outlet type.
Let’s take a closer look at the overall consensus from each group for the following subjects: beat & coverage, inbox, and pitches as well as direct quotes from a select amount of journalists regarding each topic.
Out of 50 overall guests on Season 2 of Coffee with a Journalist, 70% are reporters, or 35, and 30% are editors, or 15. Roughly 26%, or 13, journalists are writing for trade outlets, and 74%, or 37, are writing for top tier publications. Of those, 40%, or 20, are writing about Business to Consumer (B2C) and 60%, or 30, are writing about Business to Business (B2B).
Our findings also note 4 journalists or 8%, are newsletter writers, and 6 journalists, or 12%, are published, authors.
A total of 45 out of 50, or 90%, of journalists, have said they accept pitches and incorporate them into their written articles.
A total of 96% of journalists, or 48, said they like to receive pitches via email, and a mere 10%, or 5, are open to receiving pitches through social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn.
Of the 50 total journalists, 24, or 48%, of them mentioned how important subject lines are when considering opening a pitch, and 19, or 38%, believe data is important to include in a pitch.
Our findings noted 21 out of 50, or 42%, journalists are actively speaking with sources on phone calls or video chats.
76% of journalists, or 38 total, do not have a preference for keeping their inbox at “zero,” and 54%, or 27, mentioned they use some sort of filing and flagging system in their inbox for pitches they receive.
Roughly 52% of journalists, or 26, are only covering one of the following components within their story: companies, people, or products while the rest cover at least two of these components.
Average Number of Pitches Received per Week Overall
Findings by Role: Editors
For editors, we found over 93% want to review pitches via email, and only 1 editor we interviewed was open to receiving pitches via social media
53% said the subject line is important for them when considering opening a pitch, and over 66% of editors do not believe data is crucial to include in a pitch either.
Over 73% of editors said they are not actively speaking with sources via phone or video.
12 out of 15 editors mentioned they do not have a preference or goal of reaching “inbox zero” and 73% do not use any sort of filing or flagging system for pitches.
And lastly, 60% of editors are covering companies, and 53% are covering stories about people.
Overall Role Type
Findings by Role: Reporters
When looking at reporters, we found 97% want to receive pitches via email, and 2 out of 35 reporters are interested in being pitched on social media platforms.
Surprisingly 54% of reporters said the subject line doesn’t make or break chances of a pitch being opened and read. As well, 60% of reporters noted that data is not crucial to a pitch they receive.
Nearly half of reporters, about 48%, claimed they are actively speaking with sources over calls and video chats.
Almost 75% of reporters are not worried about having an “inbox zero,” and over 65% have some sort of system for filing and flagging pitches they deem interesting.
Over 65% of reporters are also only covering one component within their stories and the majority of the reporters we interviewed cover companies and products.
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Findings by Audience: B2B
We found over 96% of B2B journalists want to receive pitches via email and 93% do not want to be pitched via social media platforms.
53% of B2B journalists claim a subject line doesn’t affect the chances of a pitch being opened and read. When it comes to data in pitches, the group was an even split on whether or not it was important to include this.
Of the 30 journalists covering B2B, 53% are not actively on calls or video chats speaking with sources.
80% of B2B journalists do not care about having an “inbox zero,” and only 14 of the total group size use a filing and/or flagging system for pitches they receive.
And to no surprise, the majority of B2B journalists, 80%, focus on writing about companies over people and products.
Overall Audience Type
Findings by Audience: B2C
Similar to B2B journalists, B2C journalists also want to receive pitches via email, and only 1 out of 20 said they don’t want to be pitched via email. 15% of B2C journalists said they are receptive to pitches via social media platforms as well as email.
Surprisingly, 50% of journalists covering B2C said the subject IS and IS NOT important to them. 16 out of 20 journalists also said data is not important to include in a pitch.
Of the 20 total journalists covering B2C, 65% are not actively speaking over the phone or on video calls.
Only 30%, or 6, strive for “inbox zero,” but 65% have a filing and/or flagging method for keeping pitches and making them easily accessible.
60% of B2C journalists focus on writing about products, while 30% of them cover products and 35% cover companies.
Findings by Outlet Type: Top Tier
We found over 97% of top tier journalists want to receive pitches via email and nearly 90% do not want to be pitched via social media.
Nearly 46% of top tier journalists mentioned the subject line is important to them when considering opening and reading a pitch. 21 out of the 37 total top tier journalists also mention data is not crucial to the pitch they receive.
Of the 37 total journalists writing for top tier outlets, 43% are actively speaking with sources over the phone or video calls.
The majority of top tier journalists, 73%, are not worried or actively trying to achieve “inbox zero,” and a little over half of them use a filing/flagging system for pitches they deem interesting.
When looking at coverage, we found almost 60% of top tier journalists write stories focused on people and only 24% are covering products.
Overall Consensus Regarding Subject Lines
Findings by Outlet Type: Trade
Over 92% of trade journalists want to receive pitches via email, and only 1 out of 13 total journalists is open to being pitched on social media.
Over 53% of journalists writing for a trade publication mentioned the importance of having a strong subject line. Almost 77% of trade journalists told us data is not crucial nor does it increase the chances of covering a pitch they receive.
Over 60% of trade journalists claimed they are not actively speaking with sources on calls or video chat.
11 total trade journalists, or 84%, are not worried about achieving “inbox zero,” and about 53% said they have a system for filing or flagging pitches that land in their inbox.
Over 61% of trade journalists are covering companies, and a little more than 46% are writing stories about people.
There are a number of learnings that we gathered from this analysis of 50 journalists from Season 2 of Coffee with a Journalist and the stats above all point to some very interesting learnings.
First, email is the overwhelmingly preferred medium for being pitched regardless of role, audience, or outlet type. Surprisingly, more journalists are becoming open to the idea of being pitches on social media, however, it all comes down to preference and very few are accepting of this.
When looking at the importance of subject lines, it was an almost even split across the board whether or not it would make or break the chances of a pitch being read. More likely than not, it’s still important to craft a specific subject line that reflects the information you are pitching.
Also interestingly, the majority of journalists are not wanting data included in a pitch. While this is a generalization, we found the ones who do want data are more interested in reports and surveys with a robust amount of information vs a few KPIs.
Although each group differs when it comes to interviewing sources there is an opportunity for communicators to tap into this medium once and only when the journalist expresses interest in learning more about the topic being pitched.
“Inbox zero” is not as important to most journalists and they would prefer to keep their sources and pitches organized for ease of searching and flagging for importance. This goes back to the importance of a strong subject line and including keywords to help your pitch be findable through an email search.
When looking at story components, the majority of editors are covering companies while the majority of reporters are covering people. The audience type also mirrored B2B coverage surrounding companies while B2C was mostly about people. Take note of this when pitching subject matter experts vs companies and what outlets you are targeting.
By learning from these findings we can become better equipped to work more effectively with journalists and in turn make everyone’s life a bit easier.
For more great tips and journalist feedback, make sure to listen to weekly episodes of Coffee with a Journalist every Tuesday and subscribe to our weekly newsletter for exclusive insights on each journalist we interview.