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Jun 05, 2003
Interview

How to Plant a Story About Your Product or Service in BYTE.com

SUMMARY: BYTE.com's Editorial Director Jonathan Erickson is more influential than you may think because he also oversees editorial for several other CMP titles, including Dr Dobbs and The Perl Journal. Find out how to approach him with your PR pitch in our exclusive interview.
Jonathan Erickson
Editorial Director
BYTE.com
650-513-4578
jerickson@byte.com

-> Erickson’s background

Erickson has worked for CMP Media in a number of capacities, first as Senior Technical Editor for BYTE magazine, then as Editor-in-Chief of Dr. Dobb’s Journal before becoming Editorial Director for the Software Development Media Group.

His job now includes direct oversight of BYTE.com, Dr. Dobb's Journal, and The Perl Journal, along with less hands-on activities with the other publications in his group, he says.

(To see all the publications and Web sites published by CMP Media, check out http://www.cmp.com/totallist.)

“Having been part of BYTE in its heyday in print format serves me well in working with BYTE in its current online version,” Erickson says. “Many of the readers of BYTE.com started out as readers of the print BYTE.”

-> Current editorial coverage

Readers come to BYTE looking for coverage of emerging technologies and under-the-hood analysis of existing technologies, Erickson says. The site covers anything of interest in the technology realm, ranging from computer hardware/software to portable digital devices, protocols, languages and the like.

The site, which changes weekly, requires an annual subscription fee for users.

-> The best way to pitch Erickson

Email only, especially right now, since “we're moving around from office to office and it's hard to keep up with mail,” he says.

Pitch him directly at jerickson@byte.com or his Managing Editor, Shannon Cochran, at scochran@byte.com.

-> What Erickson looks for in a story pitch

As with every editor we have interviewed, the first thing Erickson looks for is whether the person pitching the story knows the medium. “Does it address the unique BYTE.com reader, or is it a general pitch which might indicate the lack of familiarity with BYTE.com?” he asks.

For upcoming topics on BYTE, check out the editorial calendar at http://www.byte.com/faqs/ Although it consists of mere generalities, it may give you an idea of when to pitch an appropriate story that would fit with something they already have planned.

Here are a few tips from Erickson:

1) Include something along the lines of "Article Proposal" in the subject line of your email.

2) Avoid a straight product pitch. “We don't have a problem with products being mentioned,” he says, “but they should be introduced as an example of a technology being discussed, not the focus of the piece.”

3) Focus on emerging technology and you have a good chance of getting coverage on BYTE.com.

4) Other successful pitches are for stories that explain how things work (hardware, software, protocols, etc.). “These are key,” Erickson says.

5) Follow up by phone if you do not hear from him within a “reasonable amount of time.”

-> Pet peeves

Only one, apparently: “Unsolicited multi-megabyte email attachments.” If he wants more information from you, he will request it.

-> What he looks for in printed press materials

Do not send them. “We rarely get a chance to spend much time on hardcopy press releases that arrive via surface mail,” he says.

Press releases should be sent electronically only, and they should be in text format only. He often uses a release as a jumping-off place for articles.

He adds that the print publication he oversees, Dr. Dobb's Journal, also uses press releases for its “Of Interest” section and he also publishes an email newsletter for “Developer Tools.”

“So there's plenty of use for news releases,” he says. Send them along.

-> Submitting pre-written contributions

“Yes, we’ll evaluate them,” he says, “but often we ask for rewrites so as to better serve BYTE readers.”

-> Where you can meet Erickson

Send him an email and pitch him on your (or your client’s) product or services. He is open to getting together over lunch, but prefers that you approach him via email rather than by phone.

-> A final note

Erickson is happy to work with PR folks, “especially those who do their homework up front and understand the publication. That's not to say they have to understand the technology that's being pitched,” he says, “just the publication.”

Consider this, he says: his group publishes six to eight email newsletters ranging from AI to New Products, as well as ezines (The Perl Journal, www.tpj.com/), Web sites (www.BYTE.com), and print magazines (Dr. Dobb's Journal, www.ddj.com/). “Being aware of all the different options and understanding the differences will make the PR person’s job easier,” he says.

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