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Category Archives: Journalism

power lunch

A Conversation with CNBC’s Kerima Greene

What does it take to get your brand, story or exec on TV? Is it magic, luck, or actual hard work and does it have to be tied to a big trend or news of the day? As a former television reporter and someone that has also been on the other side of the camera since 2000, I would answer by saying: if you want to be on broadcast, you have to be able to comment on a larger trend, provide expert commentary and add credibility and weight to a bigger story. But I decided to ask an actual producer and booker for CNBC and someone I have enjoyed working with for the past 15 years — Kerima Greene, Senior Talent & News Producer for CNBC “Power Lunch” – with whom I recently caught up and who kindly answered my questions below.

Before we dig in, here’s a quick primer on “Power Lunch”: It’s is a live, two-hour program (running M-F, 1PM-3PM ET) anchored by Tyler Mathisen, Mandy Drury and Brian Sullivan from CNBC’s Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, with Melissa Lee providing daily contributions from the NASDAQ MarketSite studio. The show focuses on the big, market-moving stories of the day with coverage from CNBC’s Post 9 position on the NYSE floor and from bureaus around the world. It showcases the best stories of the day from CNBC’s roster of top-notch digital and television journalists. Jason Gewirtz is the executive producer.

EY: What do you look for in a good pitch when deciding to do a story for “Power Lunch?”

KG: Breaking news has – and continues to be a hallmark of CNBC’s real-time coverage. Our stories should serve this purpose. Same for guests. We seek and deliver the leading authority and most credible voices for all our coverage. We strive to be timely, newsworthy and actionable. We hope to inform, enrich, occasionally entertain, and more than a few times made a difference for our viewing audience and investors who have skin in the game. Our goal is candid interviews, transparent, market-moving information, unparalleled all-star lineups generating must-see news-making, impactful content throughout the network.

EY: Are you interested in startups or just established companies?

KG: Public traded companies first and foremost. Startups or private companies if they are proven industry disruptors.

EY: Describe your day as a producer – maybe a day in the life of your job?

KG: We begin with two morning editorial meetings, one network wide where we find out what the reporters and shows are planning. A second show editorial meeting follows to focus our two-hour program among the “Power Lunch” team.

We mingle meticulous planning with fast-moving flexibility to deliver the news as it unfolds, from research, graphics, writing and lineup selection and pre-interviews. There are many phone calls to be made, correspondence sent and much collaboration between anchors and our Executive Producer so the message on-air is tight, efficient and cohesive. In addition to producing live television, we also write for the show’s website platform, and

So we are truly a multi-media informational platform for an engaged audience. Then we wake up and do it again. Each day is new and exciting!

EY: How has the show and your job changed through the years?

KG: It’s been an amazing run. I have had the privilege of watching CNBC grow from a broadcast startup in the late 1990s to a global household name, yet all the while retaining the nimble qualities of a startup. The smartest people are always in the room, both in front of the camera and behind and on the Web. We have the honor – and it is an honor – to interact with the world’s most powerful and influential people and be an eye-witness to history. Case in point: the financial crisis and September 11th are two hallmarks for CNBC where my co-workers all rose to the occasion again and again, broadcasting in the throes of disaster and communicating the news as it unfolded, second by second, minute by minute, sometimes 24/7 without letting up, and providing valuable information for the viewers. During the war, I recall specifically a photo of the War Room of the Pentagon, and the TVs on the bank of walls were tuned to CNBC, and our President and Defense Secretary and leaders were all monitoring the price of oil and our coverage on the markets from their seats. It was humbling and insightful. The world relies on our coverage. That responsibility has never been forgotten. Throughout our growth and prominence, we are still family at CNBC and that is the most important quality of all.

Certain things are always the same; journalism has an immovable code of ethics, Comcast the same. And the added financial transparency for CNBC offers even a deeper layer of trust with our viewers.

One thing that has been especially exciting is the digital content and technology that we use on a daily basis, and that we’ve had to learn to keep current, fresh and ahead of the curve. It has been an honor, too, to watch Silicon Valley’s incredible growth, the products and services that literally blow your mind, never seem to let up and that’s been a thrill to watch unfold.

EY: What do you need out of PR? Do you actually look to PR for story ideas? What qualities does a good PR person have in your opinion?

KG: Newsworthy ideas and pitches, communicated efficiently and eloquently. If you can’t describe your pitch efficiently and eloquently in a finite period of time or space, go back to square one and polish it up before you pitch us.

Read more from Elizabeth Yekhtikian
Cognoscenti Logo

Kelly Horan of WBUR’s Cognoscenti Spills: What Makes a Strong Contributed Article

Kelly Horan is an award-winning public radio producer who first joined WBUR in 1999. She is currently an editor of WBUR’s ideas and opinion page, Cognoscenti. In that role she is really a jack of all trades – editing stories covering a myriad of topics, recruiting contributors, and all the while keeping SEO and potential radio tie-ins in the back of her mind.

Kelly was kind enough to chat with me about what she looks for in a story, and how we as PR professionals can make her job easier. Here is what she had to say.

Q. What is Cognoscenti all about?

A. Cognoscenti is an ideas and opinions page where we cull from Boston’s thought leaders to get original ideas about issues that are both in the news and on the horizon. We range from politics, business and the economy to pop culture, religion and psychology. We are always interested in original voices and people who have expertise in a particular field or subject.

Q. Who are your biggest news competitors?

A. Probably the Boston Globe’s Ideas section. There is a lot of synergy between what we do. Our Ideas pages are similar and they feature the same types of voices.

Q. What are you looking for when you receive story submissions?

A. When we receive submissions, we look at three things:

1) How well written is this piece, and how original is the thesis and strong the point of view?

2) What is the particular expertise of the author on this subject, and how high-profile is this contributor?

3) Is this a contributor we can cultivate a relationship with?

We are always looking to build relationships with new contributors, but if we think a piece is strong but may just be a one-off thing, we are less inclined to take it unless it is exceptionally well-written. We have close to 500 contributors, and the vast majority are contributing when they feel like it, which is something we are trying to move away from.

For any submission, however, I recommend tying it to a strong news peg. If it’s well-written and ready to go, we can turn it around quickly.

Q. Can you tell me about the commitment required from a regular contributor?

A. We have several types of regular contributors that really run the gamut: we have about a dozen contributing once a week, some contributing once a month and some every couple of months. There really is no average.

Q. How do you like to be pitched?

A. I prefer pitches that follow the steps on the Submission Guidelines page, which asks for all information to be pasted into an email (not sent as an attachment), along with one line explaining what the piece is about and why the author is uniquely qualified to write about this topic. I am always happy to give feedback on a pitch or a piece that we have turned down.

Q. What are your biggest PR pet peeves?

A. My #1 biggest pet peeve is when it is obvious that a piece is not written by the author. You can smell them a mile away and it drives us crazy. They are essentially a press release in the guise of an Ideas piece, including information on a particular organization and how great it is, and it lacks authenticity. Sometimes we also find that we never have contact with the person who actually wrote the piece and are only working with the PR representative, which is not ideal.

Q. How do you measure the impact of a story? Clicks? Social traction?

A. We actually look at both. We have noticed that social media is our big traffic driver – we get most referrals to stories through Facebook and Twitter. I was shocked by how few people seek out our homepage! We are actually in the process of redesigning our homepage, making a more flexible template that will support stories in different formats.

Q. What types of stories drive the most traffic?

A. Stories on religion and family do very well. Stories on Boston’s Olympic bid have also been doing very well. Also inequality, education (early and elementary) and anything to do with Boston. It helps when the author has huge social network.

Q. What is your favorite recent piece and why?

A. I tend to love very personal “slice-of-life” -type pieces, and pieces that have a very strong point of view and stay in your mind after you have finished reading.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Shades of Grey: Network Television’s Credibility Problem (By Eileen McNamara)

The Spy Who Loved Me (By Judy Bolton-Fasman)

Driving While Black, While Not Actually Driving (By Jabari Asim) *This has continued to be the most popular piece on our web site

Q. Is there anything else you would like us to know?

A. I have heard some authors express disappointment in the headlines we use for their pieces, which I feel bad about. Please know that we write our headlines very deliberately for SEO purposes – we want to drive traffic to your story!

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers
Jessi writes about the business of technology at Wired.

Jessi Hempel of Wired on Covering the Business of Technology

Less than a year ago – after a seven-year stint at Fortune Magazine – Jessi Hempel joined Wired as a senior writer covering the business of technology. I first met Jessi when we were fellow journalists, she at BusinessWeek and I at the Boston Business Journal and I’ve known her for more than a decade at this point. She recently agreed to answer a few questions about covering technology and what it’s like to be a journalist today.

Q. You cover the business of technology – that’s a huge beat. What types of stories do you focus on?
A. The business beat sounds broad … but it’s actually more focused. I basically have two responsibilities – the first is that I write longer form business features. The second is that I write regularly for once a week or so. Those stories are either analysis of breaking news or exclusives about companies our readers recognize. On we cover consumer and enterprise facing companies but we always lean toward consumer-facing companies.

I like two types of stories for breaking news and I like analysis. Wired doesn’t cover funding round stories and we will rarely break news about an executive joining a company. Everyone from the New York Times to Re/code covers funding announcements and we don’t think it adds a lot. The types of exclusive stories we like to do are behind the scenes looks on a launch or product news. Not every company I write about is Facebook or Google. I’m very interested in startups, but the startups I’m interested in are ones that have something significant that makes them stand out. I spent a good deal of time – several hours of reporting – with a company called Hello in the spring. At the helm was a young man who was making a sleep monitor. The significance for me was the story behind the device … the young fellow was a great character. He was 22 years old and he had investors with very big names.

Q. What are the challenges of being a journalist today?
The biggest challenge is standing out – we have so much ‘me too’ journalism and most reporters have so little time for actual reporting that you get aggregated content. I think that’s that biggest challenge for journalists: finding a way to do original reporting.

Q. How many pitches do you get a day?
I get maybe 50 from people that I don’t know at all and then maybe five from people with whom I have a relationship. I probably write from three PR pitches in a year.

Q. How important are page views and does it affect which stories you cover?
The web is a volume business – it succeeds when we get traffic. Wired is extremely focused on the credibility of the story and discourages writers from looking at page views. We look at the value of the story. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a crack team of editors who are optimizing for traffic – we do. We would not be competitive if we didn’t. But, when I’m thinking about doing a story, I don’t think ‘will this get traffic?’ And I think that makes Wired different.

Q. How do you find stories? Do you ever use social media?
It’s a lot of having been in this business for 15 years and knowing a lot of people. And having people who I know and trust to say, “look at this, pay attention to this, and we want to give you the early look.” And for Wired we like to be on the news, so our team of business reporters in particular at our security desk, wake up every morning and see where we can break news and bring exclusives.

Q. How does print reporting differ from writing for
A. With the magazine, we do almost exclusively consumer-facing technology companies. Wired gives me the luxury of being able to take a long time to report and write stories. Wired is very committed to long form business stories and editors really like features that have strong narratives and strong characters. We have a pitch meeting every few weeks. At the meeting we as a team of mostly editors and staff writers will look at and consider about a dozen or so ideas. You have to find a writer or editor who falls in love with the story. Wired is the longest lead time magazine I’ve ever worked on. Right now we’re assigning stories for the November issue.

Q. What’s one of your favorite stories from the past year?
A. Here’s an example of a story I liked a lot that ran online: Instagram is Getting So Good at News, It Should Scare Twitter.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool

3 New Podcasts You Need to Listen to Right Now

Okay, so you’ve heard of podcasting.

You have strong feelings about whether or not Adnan did it; were happy to hear about Ira Glass’s full ownership of This American Life; and regularly worship at the altar of Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Podcasts were once the ugly digital stepsister of that age-old medium, radio. NPR-affiliated shows dominated podcasting. But thanks to an explosion of interest at the hands of Serial, podcasting is diversifying. More media outlets increasingly recognize the opportunity to reach new audiences. Earlier this year, Slate launched its Panoply Network. It includes long-time podcasting standbys, like the Slate Culture Gabfest, in addition to new offerings from other publications, like the New York Times Magazine Ethicists  and New York Magazine’s The Vulture TV Podcast.

But culture-watching sites and publications aren’t the only ones getting into the podcasting business. Tech and business-focused outlets have developed some great new shows as well. Here are three we’re tuning into – and what you can expect

  • Re/Code Decode – Let’s be honest:  a podcast from Kara Swisher is overdue. As she says in the intro to the show, Swisher is the person who “makes Mark Zuckerberg sweat.” She probably has more insider access and insight than any other reporter in the Valley. As it turns out, Swisher also has a talent for radio. It’s an interview show; each week, Swisher digs into her deep rolodex to talk to tech’s thinkers and commentators (like Slack’s Stewart Butterfield). Why you should tune in:  Did you hear “insider access”? Her long history of the reporting in the Valley makes for compelling interviews that dig into the heart of the issues. Don’t expect table setting here. If you don’t already know who Elon Musk is, this isn’t the show for you.

  • Inc. Uncensored – Reporters are obligated to write about all kinds of news. Some of it they’re genuinely interested in and some… not so much. Inc. Uncensored takes a look at the entrepreneurship stories piquing the interest of its writers and editors. Inc. editor James Ledbetter and staffers Jon Fine, Christine Lagorio-Chafkin and Will Yakowicz take a weekly look at news both dominating the headlines and flying under the radar – everything from social media app Banjo to the popularity of Kombucha to the potential pitfalls of “too many angel investors.” Why you should tune in:  Ever wonder what that reporter you’re pitching really thinks about the day’s news? Inc. Uncensored gives you an inside look. It’s also great to hear what stories are truly compelling to Inc.’s finest, especially when they’re not necessarily the ones getting the most clicks. Plus:  it’s a talk show. And talk shows are fun! #Banter.

  • StartUp – Now in its second season, StartUp chronicles the highs and lows of founding and launching a startup. Season 1 followed former PlanetMoney reporter Alex Blumberg as he started Gimlet, the podcasting network that (unsurprisingly) hosts StartUp. Its second season, soon to wrap, follows Y Combinator grad, The Dating Ring. The show chronicles the nitty gritty of getting a successful company off the ground:  pitch meetings, setbacks, burnouts – it’s all there. Why you should tune in:  Starting a company is hard. Really, really hard. StartUp reveals how much genius, talent, sweat and luck is needed to make a company happen. It makes successful companies seem like a miracle.


For more InkHouse posts on podcasts – including some basics for getting yours set up and what their popularity portends for PR and marketing, click here.

Read more from Anne Baker
WBUR's Headquarters

Radio Boston’s Meghna Chakrabarti on Difficult Stories, Great Questions and the Art of Listening

The day I decided I wanted to meet Meghna Chakrabarti, co-host of WBUR’s Radio Boston, I was driving home while we awaited the Tsarnaev verdict. Meghna was interviewing Tina Packer, author of “Women of Will,” a new book about the women in Shakespeare. Near the end of the piece, Tina was describing how Shakespeare found a way to communicate the complex range of human experience through his female characters. She said of emotion, “…Unless you can get out of linear revenge thinking, unless you can actually shift this idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but you really can shift it and say I will not be the same as the person who perpetrated these horrors on me. And that means creative thinking and love.”

Tina paused a bit here (around 12:10 on the audio). I was sitting in my car at a red light in front of Whole Foods and all of the sudden I was paying close attention as Meghna asked, “Tina Packer, if I may say, you caught me off guard just now. You have some profound feelings about this…Why the tears?” To this Tina responded, “I was just thinking of the trial that’s going on in Boston right now and how it’s about revenge – what they did is about revenge and what we’re about to do is revenge – and how do we get out of it?”

As my own tears flowed and I moved through the light that had turned green without me noticing, I kept wondering why Meghna decided to ask Tina that all-important question that got to the heart – the complexity – of the issue on everyone’s minds even though it was disconnected from the story. I wanted to learn more about how Meghna brings out the complex emotions that transform news stories into human stories, so I asked her to meet up. And she graciously agreed. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

InkHouse: What made you ask Tina Packer about what choked her up?

Meghna: Tina was in the studio and I could see that she was feeling something deeply emotional. She took a deep breath and looked up as she was trying to speak. And I thought, I’m going to go for it because something is happening. So I asked why the tears.


InkHouse: Yes, but not everyone is capable of leaning into something like that in the moment. How do you make yourself present enough to get to the good story?

Meghna: We try to get as many interviewees into the studio as possible.

Nothing replaces being in the same space as the person. Then it’s about focused listening. It’s about paying attention. An interview is only as good as the effort and energy that the interviewer puts into actually listening.


InkHouse: During times like this, how do you make a judgment call about when to throw out all of the prepared questions and go with the moment?

Meghna: The studio is very busy. Every host has two screens and lots of papers. On one screen I have Twitter going and on another my internal scripting system. When we’re taking phone calls there is another screen with the incoming calls. In other words, there is a lot of visual distraction, along with the production staff talking in your ear. It’s the worst possible environment for paying attention.

Of the conversations that have really mattered, I stopped looking at the other stuff. The key for the true professionals and masters in the craft is to prepare, prepare, prepare. You must organize your questions and do the background research. Then you put it in your brain and you have to find the confidence that it will be in your soul and your mind so you can put all of the paper down.


InkHouse: How do you center yourself enough to get into that place in the middle of so many distractions?

Meghna: I’m a big believer in mindfulness and walking. I get out of the office I take a coffee walk at 10 a.m. and around 2 p.m. for 10 minutes on most days. Just the physical engagement of my body moving and walking is clearing.


InkHouse: How do you find the stories you want to air?

Meghna: We have a multi-pronged mission so if something’s in the news we have to cover it, but it’s also about people, ideas and conversation. On the people front, we look for those with the unique ideas. The person might have one tiny quote in a Boston Globe story and we’ll call them and see if they have other interesting things to say. Books are also a major driver. Also with more frequency, it’s that I was somewhere and met someone and asked them to come on. You need to be part of your community.


InkHouse: How do you manage to dig through the chaos of social media?

Meghna: As technology becomes a force, it becomes the journalist’s job to think like a detective and researcher. It’s content curation: applying editorial standards to cut through the noise. The answer to these issues is still old-fashioned journalism. You get on the phone. Google does not have everything. Technology is just the tool.


InkHouse: In this so-called “attention economy,” how do you navigate the needs for clicks with the needs for quality reporting?

Meghna: We’re seeing the merging of value between two different poles. There are two types of news for us. On one hand, there is breaking news like the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. On the other is timeless content: that’s the Tina Packer conversation.

You have to do both. We’re seeing consumers of the media being savvy enough to switch between these two poles. They take the now when they want it and they take the timeless when they want it. It’s the vast middle ground where it’s tough.

The grab for attention from the BuzzFeeds of the world does have an impact. We’re in competition for people’s attention. First, how do we grab it and then how do we hold it? BuzzFeed does a good job at grabbing it. The gold standard will be for those who can grab it and hold it. On the grabbing part, we’ve had to rethink headlines and lead-ins in a very beneficial way. Technology is really helping us now though. Radio has always had a metrics problem and for the first time we can measure when people leave a program.

However, there are story-telling tenets that hold. Once you grab people with a BuzzFeed-like list, a great story, powerful narrative, or tough, courageous, and insightful interview will hold people. That’s always been true, and it remains true today.


InkHouse: What was the most difficult or interesting story you’ve told recently?

Meghna: I’ll give you two.

1. Before the Tsanaev jury chose the death penalty we talked to a juror from the Timothy McVey trial (he was on trial for the attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children). McVey’s was the last federal jury to give the death penalty until now. We looked back at the history of how the government’s approach to terrorism trials has changed. It was difficult because I wanted him to tell us what it was like sitting on that jury. I wanted to know what questions he asked himself and what went through his mind when he considered this ultimate punishment that he had to choose on behalf of the people. The closest he came was to say that it should stay behind closed doors. He said that he’d been in Vietnam and never thought he’d see anything worse, and he had in that courtroom.

2.  Every conversation with a politician is hard. No matter what you do, it’s difficult to have an honest and meaningful conversation. Even politicians who are generally open and honest can suddenly find themselves held back by institutional barriers to transparency.


I could have spoken to Meghna for a few more hours, but the Supreme Court had just announced its ruling on marriage equality. We walked back toward the WBUR studio and as she turned to walk up to the business of reporting on a day that would turn into one of the most newsworthy of the year – marriage equality, Obama’s eulogy in Charleston and a manhunt for escaped convicts – one takeaway from our discussion stayed in my mind. At some point in our discussion, she stopped and said this, “Mindfulness is the answer to every question you could ask me.”

Listen to Meghna daily at 3 p.m. on Radio Boston and online anytime.

Read more from Beth Monaghan

InkHouse Journalists Corner: Andrew Ryan of the Boston Globe on Whitey Bulger and the Best PR People

We had a welcome visitor to InkHouse recently – Boston Globe City Hall reporter Andrew Ryan. Ryan, who’s worked at the Globe since 2006, was one of the first online-only reporters at the Globe when it was transitioning from print-only to the digital-print hybrid that it is today. Before joining the Globe, Ryan wrote for the Associated Press in Boston, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, The Day in New London, Conn., and the Highbridge Horizon in the Bronx.

Ryan talked with InkHouse in our offices about the competitive news landscape in Boston, what makes a good PR person, and that time he tweeted from the courtroom about fugitive gangster Whitey Bulger. (The responses are edited for brevity)

Who are your biggest news competitors? In the past, the Globe’s competition was more cut-and-dried: we competed mainly against the Boston Herald. Nowadays, it’s a fractured news landscape and the Globe and compete against many other outlets including the Herald, the New York Times, Statehouse News, public radio stations such as WBUR and WGBH, and even Twitter.

How useful is Twitter in your job? Twitter can very useful. When Whitey Bulger was arrested and brought back to federal court in Massachusetts, there were no cameras or microphones or phone calls allowed so my job was to report the court proceedings as they happened on Twitter. The downside is, Twitter can be an echo chamber. Just a few people can make a lot of noise and it can be hard to measure what the popular sentiment really is. So it can be misleading.

What impact is video having? It’s interesting. Some newsmakers now try and bypass the media completely by producing their own high-production-value videos and sharing them directly with their audiences. It’s an attempt to control their message and not let the media control it.

What makes a good PR person? Responsiveness. If a reporter calls, be available quickly. Tailor your pitch to the person you’re covering and the type of story that the outlet covers – even the section of the paper that you’re trying to get into. That’s much better than sending mass, generic pitches that look like you’re throwing ideas against a wall to see what sticks. And if you want to be included in the story, don’t send long, formal comments by email. They make for boring copy and are likely to be left out.

How do you like to be pitched? Email and by phone are the best way to send me story ideas. The mornings are best when I have more time to talk and to think about a story. The afternoon especially after 4 p.m. is a “pinch point” for us news reporters. That’s the worst time when we’re on deadline and finishing stories.

How are headlines written? On, headlines are written to optimize stories for search results. In the print edition of the Globe, headlines are written to make you stop and think and draw you into the story. It’s a different perspective.

What do you love about reporting? I like my job because it’s different every day. I can explore and dig in and learn about things. I can witness things firsthand that few people get to see.



Read more from John McElhenny

Five New Updates to the 2015 Associated Press Stylebook

The 2015 Associated Press Stylebook is now available, filled with more than 500 pages of journalistic style, basic rules of grammar, punctuation and usage. Once originally published as a 60-page document for newswriting, the stylebook is now a comprehensive reference manual published also in Spanish and across digital platforms, including online and mobile.

To help master the book as quickly as mastering press-release writing, here are the five most important updates for communications professionals:

New index: Replacing the old Quick Reference Guide, a new 85-page index for terms with page listings has been incorporated to ease searching for entries.

Expanded social media entries: New terms include favorite, meme and Swarm, as the social diction continues becoming common speak.

Global warming: The term can now be used interchangeably with climate change (though climate change is more accurate scientifically to describe the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment, according to the stylebook).

More fashion and food: For style and cuisine lovers, both the fashion and food chapters have been updated with dozens of new terms, including writing bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich as BLT, avoiding the term preheat (and using heat instead) and spelling short-sleeved with a hyphen.

Simply sports: With more than 60 updates or revisions, the sports guide now packs listings such as baseball playoffs, basketball’s NCAA Tournament, horse racing, Olympic Games and more.

For real-time updates and answers to pressing grammar and style questions, follow @APStylebook. For more writing tips, check out ways to polish your prose.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Q&A with Sam Whitmore: The Attention Economy

We are living in the attention economy. Everyone and every company is beckoning to us look here, no here, no over there! No one follows this trend more closely than Sam Whitmore, founder and editor of the Sam Whitmore Media Survey and veteran journalist. He sat down with me to answer a few questions for InkHouse about what he is seeing in the media as it searches for a new business model and responds to the preferences of a changing audience.

Sam Whitmore

InkHouse: Last year, long before Facebook rolled out Instant Articles, you told me about the impending transformation of the home page – a move toward social media platforms taking over the territory of the traditional home page for news organizations. What are you seeing?

SW: Media brands are seeking traffic sources in new ways. A growing part of their audience will never come to their sites because they won’t leave the social platform. Think of the on-site facilities of a property like Sandals in Jamaica. You never need to leave the resort.

Last fall Vox Media (publisher of SB Nation and The Verge) raised $46 million, some of which is earmarked to explore publishing on Facebook and LinkedIn (and in May it acquired Re/code). Right now publishers are already talking to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn about their analytics and content management systems. Social platforms want media brands to publish on social. Social media will become a parallel publishing world. By no means are websites dead, but it’s going to be a parallel universe.

InkHouse: We are living in an “attention economy” as you call it, which has meant that many voices are vying for our attention in louder ways. Yet, at the same time, is long-form content is making a comeback?

SW: A lot of the stories that used to get printed in previous generations at publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times don’t get run anymore because the traffic isn’t there. Yet, there is still an appetite for those kinds of stories. Take The Information, where Jessica Lessin looks at stories she knew the WSJ would want to report, but couldn’t because velocity mattered more than depth. So she opened her own shop to do the kind of work that she knew could be done and she is using the subscription model, which is doing very well. Other examples of long-form content platforms include Medium, although Medium is moving to shorter form content too. Overall, the existence of these publications and platforms has been a reaction to the failure of the titles of our generation and our parents’ generation, which are exiting the business of planting intellectual flags and saying, “these are the truths of our day.” These new properties are filling the void.

InkHouse: What is the impact of engagement science on the news?

SM: As the demise of the home page accelerates, media properties will have to rethink what goes on their home pages. They will become more like real-time newsrooms. Physically, they will turn into cockpits with gauges and charts. Those real-time instruments will be the reason you go there and the home page will cease to be a white board of their best words on pages.

What does that mean for coverage? Some will say we have to take trend-jacking to a new level, but I think PR people should fight data with data. PR agencies need to capture as much data exhaust as they can – the analytics about what type of content attracts and keeps audiences. PR people will need to mirror what the news media are doing. In the early days the audience development people worked in sales. In the 2.0 phase that skill set crept into editorial. That’s how you win that game, or how you break even. You need to understand empirically the behavior of audiences and what motivates them.

InkHouse: What about BuzzFeed’s Impact on Journalism?

SW: I don’t think we’ve seen what BuzzFeed is going to be when it grows up. What has yet to unfold are BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and the effort to take on the kind of reporting that Nick Bilton does, such as “Do You Really Need to Shut Your Smartphone off on Airplanes?” He ran that story enough that the FAA finally caved. I think people will be surprised when BuzzFeed starts being considered for Pulitzers. They’re going to make so much money that they will be able to hire away a lot of reporters that you’d never imagine working for BuzzFeed. They’re going to understand engagement science. They’re going to take a bite out of Hollywood and capitalize on over the top TV and the YouTube stars who are being fomented. Then they will have the Edward R Murrow aspirations and we’ll see some important journalism taking place on BuzzFeed. However, that kind of reporting will be ornamental to the core business, which is to aggregate attention and capture stream.


Note: The New York Times International Managing Editor acknowledged the BuzzFeed presence in a tweet on December 15, 2014.


InkHouse: How has audience segmenting evolved?

SM: There are two core hemispheres for audiences today. In one there are what I call the Angry Vs –Vice, Vox, Vocativ (and the honorary V, Fusion) – and attention products. This media marketplace has the passive hemisphere. It’s the continuum of amateur to professional amusement around shared culture and shared understanding and it will map to the real-time newsroom. This group of media properties will run in a semi-automated way by taking what Reddit does and amplifying it.

The other hemisphere will focus on the audience that Steve Jobs called “pro-sumers.” These are people who produce and consume. They read Medium and are intellectually hungry. They engage in the idea marketplace. They are much less swayed by the instrumented front page. It’s the difference between Quora and Quibb, LinkedIn is middlebrow, and then Tinder at the bottom.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach. It’s just vanilla and chocolate and it’s becoming the way we segment the world of new media.

InkHouse: Is the opportunity for contributed content still gaining momentum?

SM: There is still a great opportunity out there. Publications that really understand the search game and engagement science know that volume is better. They are less concerned about whether a 3-digit IQ 20-year veteran connects, because if the content is shared, it worked. Lots of publications are looking for multiple ideas on a topic than just a one-off. It’s like crowd-sourcing your beat system. These media properties pay 10 people to cover some of the landscape and then contributors will fill in the rest. Inc is about to do it. Recently they published 60 contributed pieces in one day. Inc is hiring a small number of editors to do editing once pieces are posted. They are giving writers the keys to post, which gives them velocity and the ability of their brand to be in more streams. That is the prevailing trend. On the other hand, places like CIO Journal and Harvard Business Review are tightening their criteria. That doesn’t scale though, but that is not their goal.

Outside of written content, there is also the evolution of b-roll. Organizations and PR agencies can become sources of content that is captured at the source of news – conferences, customer events, etc. Podcasts and videos are great ways for PR people to provide assets that would add veracity to their news.

InkHouse: Thank you so much, Sam!

Read more from Beth Monaghan
Elections Ahead

Snapchat gets serious – starting with the 2016 election and a CNN heavyweight

Snapchat, the same app that is popular with young adults for sending disappearing selfies and videos, is growing up. Following in the footsteps of BuzzFeed, which wants to pivot from a publisher of listicles to a serious news publisher, Snapchat too is going after news and media legitimacy, and it’s not messing around. Recently, it hired Peter Hamby, national political reporter from CNN, to lead its editorial content.

A few days later, the New York Times dove into what we all were thinking: Snapchat is taking on news in a big way starting with the 2016 presidential election. Snapchat hasn’t confirmed this in so many words but we should have seen this coming, really. In January, Snapchat introduced its “Discover” section (read Danielle’s blog about Discover here), an area inside the app that showcases original content from about a dozen established publishers including ESPN, National Geographic and CNN.

Why the election? Well, whenever an election comes around, the topic of how to attract and appeal to young people comes into play. Politico targeted young voters in 2008, BuzzFeed in 2012, and now Snapchat slated for 2016. When you think about it, it really is the perfect match. The company told Bloomberg Business more than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are active on the service and together view more than 2 billion videos a day. That’s already about half the number of videos people watch on Facebook, which is seven years older and has 10 times as many members.

Why Peter Hamby? Besides being a national political reporter, Hamby has been a huge supporter of pushing CNN ahead in the digital era, encouraging his colleagues to share their work via social media. In fact in 2013, he wrote a 95-page report for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center that criticized how campaigns were covered in the digital era.

It has also been reported that Snapchat will be creating its own original content as opposed what they’ve been doing with the “Live” feature. Essentially users within the boundary of an event – such as the Kentucky Derby or the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight – could upload their personal snaps to the story and it would play for anyone clicking on that live event. Creating their own content is a big investment for Snapchat, something that most social platforms have stayed away from, because it’s very expensive. But don’t worry, Snapchat can afford it. The app is currently valued at $15 billion.

Like the way this is shaping up? That’s exactly what the man at the helm of Snapchat’s ship, Evan Spiegel, is working towards. There are growing signs Snapchat is evolving into a media firm, one that given its appeal to young and diverse audiences could be a formidable competitor to both traditional media companies and other social media outlets.

I’m interested to see how they tell the election story from the social media platform and if they really can influence that key young voter demographic. I guess only time will tell if whether it will pay off at the polls.

Read more from Kristen Zemeitus

Dennis Keohane of PandoDaily Talks Tech Journalism and His Favorite Stories

Dennis Keohane

Dennis Keohane joined Silicon Valley’s PandoDaily in April to cover startups and venture capital nationally. Keohane joined from BetaBoston, where he was part of the original team of writers who launched the Boston Globe’s tech blog last year. Dennis recently discussed with InkHouse his move to Pando and what types of stories he’s most interested in covering, among other thing 

Q. You cover startups and venture capital for Pando – that’s a huge beat! How do you manage such a large coverage area?

A. It is massive and doing it in Boston was one challenge – but now it’s massive on a national scale. The hardest part is trying to figure what is a Pando story – what fits into the structure of our mission.

Q. What is Pando’s mission?

A. Our mission is covering power players and keeping them in check – and making sure they’re not using their power in the wrong way. And promoting the little guys, who no one’s heard of.

Q. What are your favorite types of stories to do?

A. I like telling the story of the company that nobody knows, the founder who has struggled. Personally, I like the human side of the story. The best stories I’ve done are when people have let down their guard. Those are my favorites and I think people like reading those stories.

Q. How do you find your stories?

A. I try to build as many solid connections as I can, usually by in person meetings. I understand that the way the tech industry works, every meeting needs to have some value-add, but that’s not the case with good writers. You might meet with someone for 45 minutes and get nothing out of them that is worthy of a story. However, if you’ve started to foster a relationship with them, you might connect with them somewhere in Boston for 10 minutes and then they may tell you something newsworthy.

Q. What does Boston bring to the innovation/startup world?

A. Boston VCs get less credit than West coast VCs. West Coast VC’s get the glory round. Also, there is so much innovation around MIT and Harvard and the other schools that no one else can compare. The difficult thing is keeping [the talent] here. There are companies that are doing well but they’re not Facebook. Wayfair, TripAdvisor, and HubSpot are all doing well.  Drizly, Jana Mobile and DraftKings are some of the hottest startups in Boston right now.

Q. In terms of tech publications, which are Pando’s biggest competitors? Who’s doing a good job?

A. Re/code is a major competitor.  We’ve grown up together. I think Re/code more than anything has similar numbers to us in terms of page views. [Pando Founder] Sarah Lacy’s thing is that the people who read us are the influencers. … It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to Re/code, post-acquisition.

Q. What prompted your move from BetaBoston to Pando?

A. Before the Pando thing came to fruition I was looking at a few different options, including going inside a company, but I wasn’t really excited about it. I reached out to Sarah… and she said ‘we have a job opening.’ For me I love to meet new people and learn new things – so at Pando I get a better understanding of what’s happening on a national tech level and learn about the world of VC. That was really appealing about the job.

Q. What’s your biggest challenge as a journalist today?

A. Figuring out what to write every day. There are so many good companies. I have to ask: is it worthy of the coverage and what we’re trying to build with Pando? We’re evolving … so, it’s going to be more like we’re going to cover a few small stories really well … and really get away from the TechCrunch press release model. On a day-to-day basis it’s hard to figure out how to do that. I look at, what’s the angle, what’s the issue? The challenge is taking business stories and making them interesting and sexy.

Q. How much are you actually thinking about clicks and SEO when you’re crafting stories?

A. Very little. At Pando it’s more about what’s the impact of the story? I’ve been able to see what goes on at BetaBoston, but Sarah holds the controls  and so I have no idea how any of my stories do. I think that’s a good thing.

Q. How do you measure impact at Pando? Social media traction?

A. Definitely measure social media, at least I watch how many clicks something gets on Twitter or Facebook.

Q. Biggest PR pet peeves?

A. I don’t even acknowledge [embargoes]. If I’m going to write the best story about this, the time shouldn’t matter …  let’s do this the right way. I love exclusives if I can get them but it’s not necessary. I just want to have a good story that has something that people will generally care about on a large scale.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool
Code Conference

Four PR Takeaways from the Code Conference: Internet Trends 2015 Report

Last week at the Code Conference, Mary Meeker issued her annual Internet Trends Report. The report, as always, covered macro trends, which are crucial to understanding the future of almost every industry, and PR is no exception. I’ve bubbled up the four key insights for PR people from the Internet Trends 2015 report below.

1. Content Discovery is in the User’s Control. This is important because it means it’s harder to attract attention. Accidental discovery is more rare these days, going the way of browsing bookshelves and magazine stands. Today, content discovery is about setting up the alerts we want, connecting with the people we like and admire and focusing our content through those lenses. To reach audiences, communications professionals must be more authentic, more relevant and more present. See more specifics about our recommendations here from the recent Pew State of the News Media report.

User Control of Content

2. Mobile is on the Rise. Everyone knows this. If you want the data, here it is: global Internet usage is up 21% in 2014, but mobile data traffic is up 69% (it was up 81% in 2013, by the way and 70% in 2012, so it seems that we’re beginning to reach some level of saturation). What’s more? People spent 5.3 hours per day on the Internet in 2014 and 2.6 of those hours were spent on mobile devices. The impact on PR is great. On mobile, consumers generally sit back. They don’t actively search for things, but instead, they let them come to them through alerts and their social media feeds. This has ramifications for the ways in which we get our messages to target audiences. We must get into the social stream, and these days, unless we have a breakout viral success, it means that we might have to bring paid social campaigns into the PR mix. As I mentioned last week, the phenomenon of Facebook’s Instant Articles has the likes of National Geographic and The New York Times, among others, agreeing to post their content to Facebook first. (Side note: vertical viewing is up because of mobile. It’s projected that it will account for 29% of the screen viewing in 2015, which means that PR people must need to consider this format for content too.)

3. User-generated Video Drives Shares. People like to see user-generated video. It brings a personal connection to major events and gives us a more personalized way to share experiences. As Meeker reports, Snapchat saw 40 million viewers over three days for Coachella, and 37 million viewers in 24 hours for New Year’s Eve. On Facebook, in Q1 2015 alone, users viewed 4 billion videos each day, which is up four times over the past six months. By the way, 75% of those videos were viewed on mobile devices and 53% of the views came from shares. Remember what I said about getting into your audience’s social stream? Oh, and Henry Blodget has a nice presentation that shows how Facebook reaches more people than free TV. It’s also worth noting that streaming video apps, like Periscope, are also gaining traction (see our post on that here).

4. Where the Young Folks Are. We keep hearing that Facebook is for parents and Instagram is for kids. This is true, but the young folks have not fled Facebook. They just prefer Instagram, although the trend, as you can see below, is away from Facebook. Social networks are growing up and differentiating. For PR, this is a good thing because it makes reaching your target audience a bit less of an experiment. The art of this equation is in crafting the kinds of messages and content that will appeal to each audience and on each platform. Video is not such a breakout success on LinkedIn, for example, but if you’re talking Facebook and Instagram, as we saw above, video must be part of the mix.

Social Media Usage

Lots is happening to shape the new PR landscape these days. The only certainty is that more change is on the way and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. To read more of the data cited above go to the following:


Read more from Beth Monaghan