InkHouse

Follow Us

Subscribe to the InkHouse Newsletter

Sign Up!

Category Archives: Journalism

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
Thumbs up made out of flour

The PR Impact of the Pew State of the News Media Report

Two words sum up the Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2015” report: Facebook and mobile.

Let’s blame millennials. Why not, right? By 2020, they will account for nearly half of our workforce and we already know how they send something like 2,000 texts per month. By 2020, 80% of Americans will own smartphones.

Why resist all of this change though? As trends go, once discussion bubbles up to the mass media they tend to be well underway. Millennials are already changing the nature of our workplaces for the better, shifting them away from the hierarchical and patriarchal dictatorships of the 1950s and toward the hope of collaborative creativity in the future (see why Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University is bullish on millennials).

We also know that millennials don’t tend to read things offline and that newspaper revenues are down (4% in 2014). So what does this brave mashed up future of Facebook and mobile look like? If we believe the big data hype, we’ll all become robots passively reading the content served up to us by algorithms that intuit our deepest desires and therefore our future purchases and lifestyle choices.

Call me nostalgic, but I don’t see that all happening. Isn’t humanity reliant on the kind of independent thought that drives creativity and exploration? Let’s assume it is for the sake of our children, and if not them, at least for the sake of the Fourth Estate, the one that reports on complex stories about powerful people in dangerous places. This will find a way to thrive because we need thinkers to fuel the readers.

However, algorithms are definitely part of that future, as are mobile devices. Both of these trends are changing the way we consume information, and therefore the way PR practitioners must think about content and deliver it to their target audiences. Let’s examine some of the major shifts highlighted by the Pew report.

1. News is going mobile. We’re getting our news through mobile: of the top 50 digital news sites, 39 receive more traffic from mobile devices than desktops/laptops. Spend on mobile advertising is up nearly 80%, and it makes up 37% of all digital ad spending. Facebook alone claims 24% of all display ad spending and 37% of mobile display ad spending.

2. Facebook is becoming a news organization. Almost half of all Americans who are online say they got news about politics and government from Facebook in the last week. And just this past week, Facebook debuted Instant Articles. Five brave (and perhaps prescient) news outlets have signed up to publish news to Facebook first instead of to their own sites. This may sound crazy because while Facebook is letting the publishers in on the ad revenue, it will likely take away from their own traffic. It seems that there’s no stopping Facebook though, which has out-performed even Google in its share of digital display (Google claims 14%), followed by Yahoo at 6% and Twitter at 4%.

3. Podcasts are hot. Downloads of NPR podcasts grew 41% in 2014. “Serial” helped to expedite awareness of podcasts when it became the fastest to reach 5 million streams or downloads. However, podcasts have been steadily gaining in popularity. Since 2008, listenership has increased from 9% to 17% and people prefer to listen to podcasts on mobile devices (63% of 2014 downloads came from mobile requests). John McElhenny on the InkHouse team recently wrote about the personal quality of podcasts and how marketers should think about them.

4. Radio thrives on- and off-line. Although traditional radio continues to draw an audience, it’s also succeeding online. Of Americans over age 12, more than half have listened to online radio in the past month (35% of those have done so in the car), and 91% have listened to AM/FM. And let’s give NPR a hand! It gained in audience and revenue in 2014 (some due to podcasts) and its member stations also grew 11% in 2014.

5. Local news is the star of TV. Last year, we were a little surprised at InkHouse when we surveyed 1,000 consumers to find that 73% preferred to get their news from TV. It turns out this wasn’t a fluke. The Pew found that local TV is gaining in ad revenue – up to $19.7 billion in 2014, which is a 7% increase over 2013.

It’s easy to get lost in the volume of numbers in the Pew report, but viewed from afar, they tell a cohesive story. We’ve been seeing a shift away from the power of earned traction of Facebook for some time, and Instant Articles is another proof point. But Facebook traction is important (as is traction on other social platforms depending on your target audience). News organizations are realizing it and marketers need to as well. It’s one of the reasons we began a paid content amplification practice at InkHouse (for both earned and owned content).

I might start sounding like a broken record here, but PR is and should always be authentic. While you can buy eyeballs, you cannot buy fans. Sure, PR practitioners need to be savvy about the changing nature of attention so that we can win the headline game, which is often one of those “top of the marketing funnel” initiatives, but we also need to engage audiences in an authentic way or no amount of money will work.

So how do we gain that initial attention and turn it into engagement? First, we need to be in all of the places our audiences live because their path to us is much less linear than it used to be and their attention is much more easily distracted.

- Find your audience on social media. Know where your audience gathers online and be there in an authentic way. Pay for that visibility if you have to.

- Nail the headline or don’t even try. Don’t follow the crowd. While clickbait headlines work at first, they quickly die off. The HubSpot and Outbrain ebook on headlines showed that this lack of authenticity stopped working shortly after its initial traction. Once consumers catch on to the bait, they stop clicking. Right now headlines with words such as “tip,” “how to” and “magic” don’t work anymore. Lindsay Sydness on our team summarized the top headline tips from that ebook, and if you want to get angry about how clickbait headlines really work, I dug into that underworld here.

- Keep your content short. On mobile, audiences let the news come to them through Facebook feeds and alerts where their attention spans are shorter. According to the Pew, of the top news sites, anything over 3 minutes on a mobile device is nonexistent. Since Medium is so skilled at estimating read times, I took a look at a few 3-minute articles there. They came in around 500 words.

- Use visuals to break through. It’s noteworthy that National Geographic’s Instant Article on Facebook performed the best on launch day as demonstrated by News Whip (and by the way, NatGeo has 18.7 million followers for its Instagram feed). The HubSpot/Outbrain ebook showed that headlines with the word “photo(s)” perform 37% better than those without. Word to the wise!

We can’t forget the basics of finding our audiences where they live, creating messages that speak to them authentically, and repeating those messages often and in different ways until they begin to sink in. Today, we just have more types of content, more pathways and more things we can measure to hone the campaigns. In fact, we can take that wonderful New York Times story and make sure more people see it without having to hope  they’ll find their way to the NYT website or buy a newspaper. Perhaps they can just go to Facebook and stumble upon it.

Read more from Beth Monaghan
Jumbled Words (2)

Making Headlines “Clickable”

You only get one chance to make a first impression and, in the world of publishing and content marketing, that is the headline. Today, reporters are often compensated by the numbers of page views and clicks on their published stories which has led to a rash of click bait, sensationalized headlines everywhere from Buzzfeed to Facebook, designed to illicit an immediate click, such as: 15 Amazing Celebrity Diet Secrets: Your Jaw Will Drop at #7 or Someone Left This Dog Outside During a Rainstorm…Then This Happened.

In PR and social content, headlines matter enormously too – whether it’s the subject line of an email pitch, the headline of a contributed article, or the title of an infographic or video. The reality is we also need to think like reporters and editors when developing content so that our pitches are read and our content widely viewed and shared.

Just recently, I read a great report produced by Outbrain and HubSpot on the analysis of writing good headlines. It examined the three main goals of content marketers: traffic, engagement and conversion, and how headlines affect each metric.

For example, if your goal is to grow traffic, then clickthrough rate (CTR) is your most important metric. According to the report, these are the most important things you need to consider when writing headlines to drive CTR (plus a few to avoid):

 

Do:

– Use the words “photo” and “who” in the headline

– Use headlines of a moderate length (81-100 characters)

– Use bracketed clarifications included in headlines, such as: A Look Inside Mashable’s Evolution [Interview]

 

Don’t:

– Use the words: “easy,” “how to,” “cure,” “magic,” “simple,” “trick,” and “free”

– Reference the reader by using the words “you,” “your,” or “you’re”

– Include positive superlatives such as “best” and “always”

– Use words that convey a sense of urgency like “need,” and “now”

 

So now you know: a headline like “The Best Simple Tricks You Always Need to Know Now” just isn’t going to cut it. You can download the entire report here.

Read more from Lindsay Sydness
Keeping the house clean takes super strength!

Seven Tips to Spring Clean Your News Writing

After receiving record snowfall in Boston this winter, the season the city has been finally waiting for has arrived: Spring. While the snow melts, the Boston Red Sox gear up for another season and the countdown to the Boston Marathon turns to days, writers can refresh for spring by fine tuning their writing.

Don’t bury the lede. In news writing, the lede – or the first sentence – is the most important one because it contains the facts and the “so-what” factor that hooks readers and draws them into stories. When writing ledes, craft them by including the who, what, when, where, why and how to give readers all the pertinent information at the onset. Try keeping ledes to approximately 36-40 words at most – any longer will result in readers exhausting their eyes.

Vary your sentence length. Engaging writing contains sentences that differ in the number of words, style and structure. You might have a sentence with 10 words that describes the setting, followed by a sentence with 20 words outlining the problem. This is important because it sets the pace for readers to keep them reading line after line, word after word. There’s nothing worse than readers dismissing your content after the first couple sentences.

Deploy the active voice and trim the fat. Piggybacking on fluctuating sentence length, pair strong subjects and verbs to create powerful prose. Don’t write passively with verbs of being; for example, “Steve kicked the ball” is more engaging than “Steve was kicking the ball.” The active voice also helps trim word count to keep copy length as tight as possible. The less words to convey your message, the clearer it’ll be for readers to understand.

Show, don’t tell. The best type of news writing illustrates powerful images by incorporating descriptions that evoke readers’ senses. When describing scenes or products, for example, capture the details that matter most – size, smell, color, taste, touch, etc.; the elements readers can envision. Instead of stating that your new product is cool, visually show how and why it’s cool.

Develop compelling quotes. Quotes are essential components to press releases because they allow sources to editorialize, and writers can use them to verify their ledes. The best quotes help advance the story into the next phase by serving as transitions from the previous paragraph to the next. They’re also important opportunities to highlight color commentary and position individuals as experts.

Use Associated Press style. The de facto style of journalistic writing, AP style conforms all types of news writing, including press releases and bylined content, so that communicators and reporters write in the same language (other than plain English, of course). With entries about listing cities in datelines, incorporating proper punctuation and – my favorite – using numerals and percentages, among others, the stylebook contains more than 500 pages of tips and tricks for linguists.

Proofread and proofread again. As our fingers quickly flutter across the keyboard, it’s more common than ever to accidentally include typos in your text. Once you’re finished writing, print a copy of your writing and mark it up with a pen; you’ll find more edits on paper than reviewing on screen. For the final proof, read from the bottom up because doing so out of order will make your eyes even more attentive for any hidden blemishes.

For more writing tricks, check out seven tips for good PR writing.

Read more from Steve Vittorioso
Group of Multiethnic Busy People Working in an Office

The Impact of Engagement Science on the News

And you thought those photos of the 10 puppies you had to see before you die were all just for fun. Engagement science is transforming the news business. From Buzzfeed’s listicles to Medium’s focus on reads over clicks. It’s all about the data, which is all about engagement – and it’s increasingly all about social.

Why? The explosion of mobile is changing the way people interact with the news. When we’re sitting in front of our laptops, we search. But on mobile, we sit back. We share, but we rarely search. Consumers let information come to us on our mobile phones via push notifications and the cockpits of our favorite social media platforms.

This train’s momentum is strong. Buzzfeed reports that 71% of millennials visit social media sites daily. And mobile has “taken the lead as the primary platform for social – 60% of time spent on social is on mobile (Buzzfeed/eMarketer). Social media isn’t the only car on this mobile train. Video is driving massive usage. Check out these stats:

This behavioral shift is changing the way people read the news. Facebook is encroaching on the territory of the traditional news home page. We’ve seen media properties such as Mashable publish articles first on Facebook, and we’ve seen click bait taken to a new level by suspicious and anonymous publishers (read The Story Behind Click Bait Cluttering Your Facebook Feed). And last week, even The New York Times got into the Instagram game.

The bottom line: An article, video, infographic, blog post, you name it, is the first step, not the last. It must become social, through earned (and sometimes paid) amplification strategies that can bring the message to its audiences.

Read more from Beth Monaghan
Podcasts

Podcasts are the New Black for Consumers and Advertisers

Two months ago my commute increased from 30 minutes to an hour as I embarked on a new career path at InkHouse. The longer drive proved streaming Spotify to be a drain on my data package, while the radio played the same 5 songs on repeat. Coincidentally, I had seen a lot of buzz on social media around this new series called “Serial.” I found out I could download it to my phone through the iOS Podcasts app, so I gave it a listen one Monday morning drive. By Wednesday evening I was sitting in silence on my couch, clinging to the last few minutes of this gripping 12-episode story. This was my first introduction to podcasts, and I was hooked. I immediately went back to the Podcasts app to discover my next audio adventure. I guess I’m not the only one – Americans are listening to more than 21 million hours of recorded shows like “Serial” every day, according to Edison Research.

Podcasts don’t stack up to TV, radio, or web consumption quite yet, but the numbers show it’s quickly on the rise. Serial can be considered the medium’s breakout success – with over 5 million downloads or streams of the series and over 1.5 million listeners per episode. Where Serial differs from the rest is in its continual storytelling throughout the series. Serial carried listeners through the revisited murder of Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her then boyfriend Adnan Syed. Each episode heightens suspense for the next, unraveling more details about the 1999 case and raising questions about Adnan’s conviction. Despite whom you side with when listening to Serial, one thing is certain: reporter Sarah Koenig has brought new light to Adnan’s questionable sentencing that is no longer being ignored, and her millions of listeners are begging for what’s next.

Serial shows that the once beloved medium for tech-geeks has become more universally accepted with simpler “click-to-download” or “stream here” methods of consumption. People can now listen to the podcasts they love wherever, whenever – Netflix for your ears. But Serial is just one show in the sea of podcasts, with very few advertisers, asking primarily for listener donations to keep the show going. Over 1 million users actively downloading Serial without a huge advertising push exemplifies the opportunity for a new wave of content marketing.

As podcasts rise in popularity, so does the ability for brands to easily exhibit their thought leadership to an audience willing to listen – all you need is the Internet. By adding simplicity to content creation and introducing more personalization, podcasts are quickly becoming an alternative to radio. Steve Litchfield, producer of the Phones Show podcast, explains, “Podcasting is viable because it’s on-demand, which means listeners won’t miss a thing. Also, podcasts contain in-depth and informative content, whereas radio is often transient and overly chatty, with little substance.” Brands can bring their storytelling to life by cutting out much of the clutter involved in traditional content distribution.

If brands are not looking to begin an original series, they still have an opportunity to sponsor an existing, relevant podcast as a new advertising medium. PodcastOne is hoping to bring major brands onboard as investors into the rise of these programs. The company aggregates shows and sells ads in bundles across their combined audience while sharing the revenue with its programmer.

Even more valuable is the opportunity for sponsored content. Very few podcasts have introduced sponsored content into their programming, but the ones that have are doing it well. A new podcast I’ve been enjoying is Reply All, simply defined as “a show about the Internet.” Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are always sure to make note of sponsored content, but when it involves a clip of PJ calling his dad to define the word “intranet” as a promotion for Igloo Software, it seamlessly fits right into the rest of the episode. Reply All also sponsors content from Squarespace, a website builder that has been advertising on podcasts for the last 5 years.

Podcasts are personal,” says Ryan Stansky, marketing manager for Squarespace, “We have the opportunity to get hosts genuinely excited about our products and values. When they relay an authentic message to a large audience who trusts them, it benefits everyone involved, because the show is supported, we get new business, and the customer learns about a product that is useful in their personal and/or professional life.”

Podcast Data

As you can see, podcasts are the new black for content consumption. They can go where TV and Internet (hopefully) draw the line: while you drive, while you cook, and even while you shower – guilty. But what about sponsored content – does it even work? Out of the 39 million average monthly listeners, 54% have made a purchase from podcast ads – AKA yes, it’s working.

Now that I’ve convinced you to hop on the podcast bandwagon, where should you begin? Here’s a start, and the comments section is worth reading this time. If you’ve been around the podcast block, we’d love to know what’s on your playlist. Happy listening!

Read more from Jill Jankowski
Predictions picture

My 4 Favorite 2015 Predictions from the Nieman Journalism Labs

Along with fad diets and crowded gyms, one thing you can always count on with an impending new year is predictions. From next year’s hottest tech trends to the celebrity baby watch, people around the world are predicting what’s in store for 2015, and experts watching the media industry are no different.

Earlier this month, the Nieman Journalism Lab, a Harvard-affiliated organization pushing the future of journalism, asked a select list of experts in the world of media to predict what 2015 will bring to the field.

Here are some of my favorites:

The rise of bullsh*t data journalism: According to Jacob Harris, senior software architect at The New York Times, “the wave of bullshit data is rising, and now it’s our turn to figure out how not to get swept away.”

Harris worries about the state of journalism as he watches news organizations flood their sites with “fast, cheap stories” just to hit their monthly traffic numbers. “And everybody knows that posts that feature several key charts or 40 maps that explain something tend to do pretty well in traffic,” he says.

Well, yes, they do. But we at InkHouse believe there is a proper way companies can gather credible data that will serve as a strong piece of their PR program. In a previous post, Beth Monaghan outlines the right ways to produce newsworthy data, which includes partnering with a credible third-party research firm to generate data that is valid and unique and will thereby enable a brand to offer new perspective to a conversation already taking place in the news.

Native helps pay for the news: Native advertising certainly had its moment in the spotlight in 2014, and from the sound of it, 2015 will be no different. According to Amanda Hale, vice president of advertising and creative solutions at Talking Points Memo, “2015 will be the first year where native advertising programs will be in place at nearly every serious news organization… And I think that’s totally pivotal for journalism.”

Native, she says, “plays to the very heart of serious news organizations’ strengths” and her hope is that 2015 will be the year when people begin to see native advertising as a vitally important revenue stream for a publication, rather than a threat to journalistic standards.

We at InkHouse would say the jury is still out on native advertising. While we certainly encourage anything that financially supports our favorite news organizations, and wholeheartedly support brands producing their own content, we still find great success by first packaging a CEO’s point of view or insightful data into articles, infographics and slideshows that, as Tina Cassidy says, “get published, just like real journalism, on legitimate sites such as Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Co., Wired, and many others…without having to pay.”

Let’s see if developments in 2015 change our minds.

The readers we can’t friend: Heidi Moore, U.S. finance and economics editor at The Guardian, makes one of my favorite predictions: she says there is still a significant segment of this country that wants to consume news, but aren’t as clued in to the newest content platform or real-time news app as journalists and PR representatives.

It is her hope that 2015 is the year we start to address the news consumption needs of this group. “For those who need to survive, this is the key. For those who need to thrive, the next step to growth is reaching beyond the readers who are sitting ducks on social platforms. They want the news too.”

As the daughter of a man who loves the news – who made me love the news – but doesn’t spend time trolling his Facebook feed and likely has no idea what Twitter is, I completely agree. Through our obsession with social platforms, we are leaving out a good chunk of the population who wants to read our stories too.

People are willing to pay for good content: Maria Bustillos, a critic and writer in Los Angeles, says “2015 will see a tipping point in favor of subscription-based journalism online.” And with publications like The New Yorker, Financial Times and The New York Times maintaining successful subscription-based business models, it is clear that readers are willing pay for online access to worthwhile content.

The Wall Street Journal’s social media editor Sarah Marshall adds to that sentiment, saying that paying for news on mobile should be as easy as getting an Uber: “Name me a paid-for news site that has a payment method so easy that a new subscriber could sign up in less than five minutes while in a dark room after having consumed a few glasses of festive punch.”

Now, if content subscriptions are as cheap as getting an Uber, I am all in.

You can read these predictions and many more at the Nieman Journalism Lab site. We are eager to see what 2015 brings, and hope you are too.

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers
2015

Pitching Resolutions: What Reporters Want in 2015

I recently had a chance to sit down with reporters from ABC, Bloomberg, Forbes, Fox and TIME, and they were kind enough to share with me what they want from PR professionals in the New Year. Bottom line: The days of smiling and dialing are long gone. Relationships do matter, as does taking time to figure out what stories the reporter may find interesting, understanding their beats and tailoring pitches, as obvious as that sounds. Here’s how a few top tier reporters put it – in their own words:

 Richard Davies, ABC News Radio business correspondent, had this to share:

·       Keep it brief: My time is valuable, and my attention span is short!

·       Sharpen up your writing skills. Put your best idea in the first sentence of your pitch.

·       Never on Thursday: It’s very often the busiest day of the week for news events. Try pitching stories on Friday afternoon or Monday morning.

·       In-person may beat online. Try to do some of your business face-to-face, not always on the phone or via email.

Forbes and Inc. contributor Peter Cohan shared this wish for 2015:

“I want PR people to introduce me to clients who can help me write about my favorite topics – for Inc.: surprising tips for achieving startup success and for Forbes: startups that are taking customers from publicly traded companies.” 

James Rogers, Fox News science and technology editor, encourages people to be extra cognizant that he is talking to several spokespeople a day and producing stories at a rapid pace. Most importantly, he encourages people to really take the time to determine what stories he is likely to cover.

A technology reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek said the best pitches connect companies to something bigger than them. Reporters are more likely to write about something that they can put their own stamp on, rather than just taking an announcement and working very narrowly. Many PR people seem to realize this, but fail by going much too broad. As a tech reporter, there’s nothing I can do with the trend of “increasing interest in mobile” or “bringing your device to work.” So, as wide as you can go while remaining specific. Also, if you’re going to connect a pitch to someone’s past work, you have to be right about what someone covers. I’d rather have no attempt at a personal tie-in than one that comes off phony.

Jason Sanchez, TIME and Money video producer, also wants PR professionals to take the time to get to know his coverage areas and let him get to know company executives without the pressure of having it lead to automatic coverage. “I don’t want the pressure of taking the interview to then have you and your client think that automatically means a piece in the next week, month or even three months. Have the patience and flexibility to see that maybe it isn’t going to be an immediate story, but there’s potential for it down the road.”

So before you raise a glass and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” take some time to think about upping your media pitching game in 2015. Happy New Year, and happy pitching!

Read more from Elizabeth Yekhtikian
4

The Boston Globe Launches New Business Section with Charlie Baker Q&A

The Boston Globe is placing bets on Boston and journalism. Last night, owners John and Linda Henry hosted a launch event for the new Business section with a Q&A between Sacha Pfeiffer and Governor-elect Charlie Baker. Pfeiffer didn’t disappoint the crowd and asked all of the tough questions – non-profit CEO compensation, the impact of sea level rise on our heavy development close to the shore, healthcare reform and budget cuts. Baker was open and candid, joking, “Do you have any easy questions?”

The new Business section debuted yesterday, and I can’t think of a better time. We have a new mayor, a new incoming governor, and a new Chamber of Commerce CEO in the near future. In the video the Globe aired last night, which appears below, commercial real estate reporter Casey Ross notes that in 2016, 7 million square feet of new buildings are scheduled to open in Boston, a level we’ve never seen before in our city’s history. Columnist Shirley Leung, whom Editor Brian McGrory called, “one of the most talented columnists in the nation,” noted that, “Business and the economy remain the biggest stories in this town.” And Pfeiffer talked about her plans to make the Business section something you have to read “because the stories…are just so interesting and unusual.”

The team is led by Business Editor Mark Pothier whose enthusiasm introduces the video. Last night, I was happy to run into some of the veterans I’ve read for years who will be contributing to the section – people like Beth Healy (financial and investigative) and Scott Kirsner (innovation). There is also is a smart team of newer faces – Jon Chesto, Taryn Luna, Priyanka McCluskey, Callum Borchers, and more (see the Globe’s masthead).

The energy in the room was high, and attendance was a who’s who of Boston business, despite tough competition for attendees from The Massachusetts Conference for Women (where Hillary Clinton keynoted earlier in day), and BostInno’s 50 in Fire. I’m proud to live in this city, one that we often note is small and interconnected, yet one in which three business events can all thrive.

Overall, the new Business section will now have its own section front five days a week and a bunch of new features, including “Talking Points,” which is a summary of the top business news, and the “Agenda” with event highlights. The inside pages bring together a mix of the driving forces of our economy, from hip startup workspaces, to apps shaping our digital social future, to serious issues that affect our healthcare system. And “Bold Types” is a fun take on personnel changes; yesterday’s inaugural edition had musings about the next head of the Massachusetts Tax Payers Foundation and The Chamber.

The best part about the new business section is that there will be more of it – with a continued effort on serious journalism. How does a bombarded public know which voices to trust when anything can break through by latching onto a trending Twitter hashtag, or leaning on a radical point of view? The Globe just might be the only newspaper in America that is investing serious money in actually expanding the kind of journalism that focuses the noise. I’m looking forward to more.

Read more from Beth Monaghan
7

In-Depth, Ethical Reporting and Breaking News Drive Broader Editorial Focus at VentureBeat

I had a chance to sit down recently with Dylan Tweney, executive editor of VentureBeat, to chat about the evolving focus of one of the tech industry’s best known media properties. The brand might cause some to mistakenly think of VentureBeat as simply an online news site covering venture capital news and investment trends, but it actually has a much broader, more diverse scope.

However, before diving into some of VentureBeat’s particulars in terms of focus, there is definitely another message that was loud and clear from my discussion with Dylan. He takes tremendous pride in accentuating the integrity that underscores VentureBeat’s reporting.

“We don’t invest in the companies we cover and we stress ethical reporting in everything we do,” he said at the outset of the discussion. “We take objective reporting and analysis very seriously.”

When he told me this during our meeting in mid-October, I’ll admit that I treated it as a throwaway mission statement. As when companies say “customer service” is what sets them apart, it’s a hard thing to prove quantitatively.

What makes Dylan’s ethics statement more interesting now versus when he first said it is that with the recent “Ubergate” scandal involving an executive touting the potential merits of opposition research on journalists and singling out a few prime targets, you have to wonder if this message has become more than a mission statement. I am definitely not implying that any VentureBeat competitors are in any way unethical. The vast majority of journalists we work with are highly ethical, strive for objectivity and balance, and are discerning about the stories and companies they cover.

However, journalism is like politics in that often the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest can be as bad in the realm of public opinion as actual wrongdoing. So in an age where media outlets share investors with the companies they cover, it inevitably draws immature mudslinging by executives who work for companies outside of that portfolio even in the absence of any evidence.  That was part of the poor explanation for why the Uber executive attacked a specific journalist—the media outlet shares an investor with Uber’s top competitor, Lyft.

Bottom line: ethics and objectivity are important in journalism just as understanding what makes a good and balanced story is important in public relations. Unfortunately, questioning someone’s integrity without merit is oftentimes easier than fixing what is being criticized.

Other things worth relaying from our discussion:

  • In-depth reporting—another point hammered on by Dylan was VentureBeat’s focus on telling a more in-depth story. In an age where it seems like speed trumps depth in storytelling, it’s good to hear that there is a media property trying to tell more complete stories. What this means for PR people is that there is an opportunity to go beyond the executive interview and provide data, third-party validation (users, analysts, investors) and additional context to help get across a more nuanced message.
  • Increasing commitment to breaking news—when asked what competitor he respects, Dylan cited Re/code as an outlet that gets a lot of stories before the crowd and does a good job reporting the details of those stories. Along those lines, VentureBeat has made recent news hires in New York and Toronto as a commitment to breaking more stories. This breaking news focus, combined with a commitment to going more in-depth means that VentureBeat could be an attractive place for more exclusives.
  • VB Events—VentureBeat recently announced its 2015 event lineup with an emphasis on gaming, marketing technology and mobile. The events are well attended by investors, market disruptors and other technology industry stakeholders, and are open to outside speakers.
  • VB Insight—the recently launched research side of VentureBeat generates reports targeted at marketing, sales and business-development audiences. With former VentureBeat editorial contacts and some newly hired analysts, Dylan expects the Insight side of things to grow quickly and to stress the same ethical approach as the editorial side of things.

Overall, Tweney made it clear how committed VentureBeat is to in-depth, ethical reporting that goes a step further than one-off news stories. If you can bring something interesting or additional that goes beyond “Acme Tech announces…” you have a good shot to at least get the ear of a VentureBeat staffer.

Read more from Jason Morris
15

Kyle Alspach, BostInno Tech Editor, on BostInno’s Expansion Plans and the Future of Journalism

Kyle Alspach, BostInno’s new national technology editor.

Longtime Boston technology writer Kyle Alspach recently moved from BetaBoston to BostInno – where he’s the online tech publication’s first national technology editor. During a recent conversation with InkHouse, Alspach, who was the technology editor at the Boston Business Journal prior to joining BetaBoston, discussed why he made the jump to BostInno, how he shapes national tech coverage and how much he and his team think about clicks and SEO when they’re developing stories. When he’s not getting the scoop on the newest startups in Boston, Alspach can be found raising hot peppers in his garden, playing drums in his band or relaxing with his cats.

Q. Why did you move from BetaBoston to BostInno?

A. The main thing for me was getting the opportunity to have more of an editor role, and to work at a place where I’d be overseeing overall coverage and working with other writers. I really benefited – when I was at the Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech – by working with editors.  I came in [to those publications] and didn’t know anything about how to cover tech companies and there were a lot of people who knew a lot about it. That was such a huge help. Now that I’ve been doing it for a few years, it will be a cool experience to work with people who are interested in learning how to cover tech news. I was also interested in BostInno just because of the fact that there’s certainly the sense out there that the web is where journalism is going to be in the future – there’s no debating that now. So I was attracted to work at a place where that’s all they do – covering news for the web. Other places I’ve worked, it was a big deal, but it wasn’t the priority. That changes your mentality. If you don’t know how to write news for the web, you stop existing. I wanted to see what that was like.

Q. How do you approach technology coverage at BostInno?

A. The idea is to obviously do the most compelling tech company coverage in all of our markets [BostInno parent company Streetwise Media also has publications in Chicago and Washington D.C.]. It’s interesting to see that not just in California, but pretty much every large metro area with colleges and young people, you see these startup meccas pop up.  Overall, our approach is just ‘how can we be the go-to source for covering that phenomenon.’ In Boston it’s not especially new, but there are some new things about our market – for instance there are a lot of consumer tech startups in Boston now.  In Chicago it’s very new and in D.C. it’s the same thing. There’s a huge opportunity to tell people about not just that there’s this new app … but that there are these people making these apps and they’re potentially going to be changing things about your city.

Q. How much are you think about clicks and SEO when you’re writing a story?

A. Once we decide something is an important story, we think a lot about it.  It’s a big opportunity especially for things that are breaking or events. You know Apple is going to have this announcement … and you know there’s an opportunity to get traffic from that – things like that. It’s kind of a different mindset.  I covered Google announcing its new Nexus phone and we thought, people are going to want some digestible information about this and I don’t want to just be another person writing it – but I do want to be useful. So we created a post about the exact differences between the new Nexus phone and the iPhone Six Plus. It worked out well and a lot of people were interested.  SEO is especially crucial when the entire world of tech journalism is covering something. We try to not do stuff for the sake of doing it. We try to be really fast and have it there immediately and differentiate ourselves.

Q. What is BostInno’s expansion strategy? Are you trying to be a Boston-based TechCrunch?

A. I think it’s somewhat of a unique model. I don’t think anybody else in tech news has put up a map like we have, that shows all of the cities where we’re planning to expand into next.  The goal is just to be the go-to startup news site in as many cities that there’s a need for one. I haven’t heard a lot of talk of expanding into Silicon Valley, but I know we do want to expand into L.A., Seattle and Austin, Texas.

Q. What are some tech trends you’re watching now?

A. One is the great debate about what is Boston’s identity. I did something on my first day on BostInno about it, about how losing Facebook isn’t that relevant to the conversation anymore. I think there’s a lot of proof that a tech startup can become a big tech company in Boston – it’s not a given that they’re going to leave and not be able to become large here. The big counter example is Wayfair …. It’s nowhere near Facebook’s size, but if Boston didn’t have the ingredients to build a large tech co. then Wayfair wouldn’t be here.  There still are so many challenges – one is that we didn’t do anything about non-compete agreements. I don’t think anybody in the early stage thinks that this is helping us.

Q. Biggest PR pet peeve?

A. The biggest pet peeve is to have there be significant news, a big funding or an acquisition of a company that I’ve been following for a while and then to have no heads-up or even – at least send me an email about it. If the company I’ve been writing about for three years gets a big VC round … and I see it in TechCrunch … it just makes me look like I’m not doing my job. What is the point of me dealing with a person at a PR firm at all if they‘re not going to keep me in the loop? I definitely want to get the exclusive, but I don’t’ ask for them on fundings.  I want it to be on something where clearly I need to differentiate my coverage. If there’s a new startup in town I want to be the first person doing the story.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool