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May 17, 2002
Interview

How to Influence VARBusiness's 107,000 Readers

SUMMARY: In this 4th profile in our continuing series on how to get your company mentioned in top technology publications, David Strom, Chief Technology Editor of VARBusiness reveals how you should pitch stories to him, what he is looking for, and what press releases he will probably ignore.
Profile #4 in Our Continuing Series on High Tech Journalists

David Strom
Chief Technology Editor
VARBusiness
600 Community Drive.
Manhasset, NY 11030
PH: 516.562.7151
dstrom@cmp.com

-> Circulation as of 5/01:

Controlled circulation of 107,500 (i.e. no one pays. They qualify via survey as the magazine’s target readership).

-> Strom’s background:

Strom was a math major in college and back then he was “not much of a writer.” After earning a BS from Union College and an MS in Operations Research from Stanford University, his interest in environmental policy analysis took him to Washington DC where he worked for the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, and the Conservation Foundation.

Later, Strom directed new product research at Transamerica Occidental Life's Information Center in Los Angeles, where he specialized in testing micro-to-mainframe communications products.

In fact Strom did not find his calling as an IT journalist until the mid-1980s when PCs began flooding the market.

“I read PC Week a lot and I heard they had started a section on networking,” Strom explains. “Since I mainly did IT support work in DC, I figured they [PC Week] needed an end-user to explain it all. I was really passionate about [networking] and so I wrote for PC Week and eventually became an editor.”

In 1990, CMP Media, Publisher of VARBusiness, gave Strom the opportunity to launch Network Computing magazine. In addition to building a staff of 20 he also established the magazine's six networked laboratories, designed a network-based publishing and production system, and wrote many articles on networking topics.

Strom only stayed at Network Computing for a couple of years before starting his own consulting business. For the next 10 years he also contributed freelance articles to over a dozen high tech publications, and wrote two books, Internet Messaging (1998) and Home Networking Survival Guide (2001).

Finally, in April 2002 after ceaseless lobbying on CMP's part, Strom agreed to take the position of VAR's Chief Technology Editor where he currently makes a great deal of the publication’s editorial decisions.

“As a freelancer I had good luck setting my own topics, but nothing can compare with a good staff job at a magazine you respect,” Strom says. “It’s a very different industry than it was 10 years ago. Products are being deleted and people are being laid off. I’m very lucky to be here.”

-> Current editorial coverage:

VARBusiness primarily speaks to IT professionals at all levels of business. According to a Bernett Research study of the publication’s readership, subscribers help large companies like General Motors, American Express, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Walt Disney “transition into the digital economy.” Subscribers also serve a vast number of small to mid-sized businesses around the country.

Strom says the magazine’s coverage “really focuses on areas where there is going to be premium value add for resellers to use technology. We really try to provide top-drawer information for business owners, CTOs, etc. These are the people who decide how systems get deployed and we try to give them the necessary perspective.”

For example, Strom likes to have stories about a major computer manufacturer deploying customized Web solutions for resellers. Going forward, Strom says he wants stories to have more of a ‘how to’ angle, but “not just customer case studies. We want readers to really understand how a customer made a decision and why. I want to know what are the things they really get out of the system they chose.”

VARBusiness also conducts its own research and publishes an annual report card on vendors. If a company wants VARBusiness to research products, Strom suggests they speak with research director Bonnie Markorwitz (bmarkowi@cmp.com).

Additional information about the magazine’s content can be found on its editorial calendar, which Strom strongly suggests that you read (in addition to the magazine itself).
The calendar is located at http://www.channelweb.com/ads/vb/vbmediakit/pages/editcalendar.html

-> What Strom looks for in a story pitch:

Be forewarned. Strom says, “If I am not familiar with your product you better get me familiar quickly. If you need to, take me to a place nearby where they have it and I’ll check it out. I won’t want to cover you otherwise.”

Another word of advice from Strom, “If a PR person really knows what they are talking about they will have my attention. I will throw them a couple of curve ball questions to test them and if they have to say, ‘oh, I’ll get back to you on that’ I don’t bother with them.”

Strom really wants people to know the publication, but even more so, you should know who he is. He encourages PR professionals, and any of his readers, to go to his website http://www.strom.com. “It was initially set up for me so I could keep track of my articles,” Strom says, “But at this point it is really helpful and informative.”

As for pitching Strom, email is best but do not send him an email and then call him to make sure he got it. Strom says if he is truly interested he will get back to you.

He adds that phone calls are risky because “after the first ten seconds you are going to lose me unless I know you or you really hit the mark.”

-> Deadlines:

VARBusiness comes out twice a month and there are rolling, internal deadlines throughout. If you have a feature idea for Strom, he suggests you check the editorial calendar at least a couple of months before it is due. Strom also says that VARBusiness is not a news publication, therefore “if you have something embargoed until next week then call me next week about it.”

-> Submitting pre-written contributions:

Do not bother. Strom feels these kinds of articles “tend to push a company’s agenda too much.”

-> Becoming a regular columnist:

VARBusiness has a few. If you are interested, you can write, and you have something of true value for the publication, Strom suggests that you speak with Senior Executive Editor T.C. Doyle (tcdoyle@cmp.com) or Editorial Director Robert DeMarzo (rdemarzo@cmp.com).

-> Where you can meet Strom:

Strom will make it out to large events like PC Expo, as well as the magazine’s own events. A list of these events can be found at (http://www.channelweb.com/sections/calendar/events.asp

If you are at a trade show, do not bother asking Strom to just stop by your booth. Set up a meeting before hand or even at a suite. That said, Strom admits some of his best business relationships started at trade show booths.

He adds that you can also meet him at the office if you are in the area or visiting.

-> What does Strom prefer to see in a press kit:

Product prices, full contact information and end user contacts (not analysts). Strom also wants “a feel for what a product actually does.” Plus, if you have a software product, Strom says there is no reason why a company can not place a CD sample of the product in a press kit.

--> What Strom looks for in an online pressroom:

Again, contact's names and numbers are most important. Strom also looks for product names and recent press releases. Keep your site current and easy to find information. If not, Strom says he will just go to a competitor’s site.

-> Strom’s favorite business publications:

NY Times and Time Magazine.

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