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Apr 18, 2003
Interview

How to Pitch Your Story to the Newly Revamped eWEEK

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Debra Donston
Executive Editor
eWEEK
500 Unicorn Park Dr.
Woburn MA 01808
(781) 938.2629
debra_donston@ziffdavis.com

-> Circulation
Print: 400,100
Online: about 1 million page views per week

-> Donston’s background

Debra Donston has been with eWEEK (formerly PC Week) for 13 years. She provides editorial direction for the Labs department, making sure the magazine covers technology in a way that is most relevant to readers.

The best part of her job, she says, is that technology changes all the time. It is never boring. “I’m not a technologist by nature or training,” she says, “but I work with amazingly smart people, the smartest I’ve ever met in my life. Not a day goes by that I’m not challenged.”

-> Current editorial coverage

eWEEK readers are busy IT professionals who purchase enterprise-level applications for their organization, purchase across three or more technology product categories (networking, peripherals, systems, storage, security, services, wireless, Internet/intranet business), and are actively involved in the IT decision-making process.

Everything that appears in the magazine also appears online at eweek.com. The site also includes daily news updates written specifically for the online version.

The recently redesigned magazine (launched on April 7) focuses on News, Views and Reviews.

News: Covers breaking and scoop news. Mike Zimmerman (mike_zimmerman@ziffdavis.com) is the Executive Editor. If you have an announcement you want covered, or news about a product, this is the section to consider.

Do not pitch Zimmerman directly. Read the magazine and see who covers what area. Pitch the appropriate person. Editorial contacts can be found at
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,105,00.asp


“The earlier we get the information for the news section, the better,” says Donston. “And the more unique the information, the better.”

Views: This opinion section includes columns, editorial, and letters to the editor. The Free Spectrum column, basically an op-ed piece, is the only section open to outside contribution. If you are not trying to make a sales pitch but are providing informed opinions about a particular area, pitch Stan Gibson (stan_gibson@ziffdavis.com).

Do not send a pre-written story.

Reviews: This section includes eWEEK Labs, which is composed of editors and analysts who evaluate hardware and software. It covers product reviews, technical analysis, and feature stories (usually anchored by a review).

They have two labs (in San Francisco and in Woburn), with analysts at each. As with the news section, “it is really important to know who covers what in Labs,” Donston says. “We have a beat system. For each particular type of product, send information to the person who covers that area.”

About four to six of the 15 Labs pages are devoted to a Big Picture story. “That’s where I give the most exposure to pitches,” Donston says. She begins working on these stories 4 to 6 weeks before publication. The Labs beat list can be found at http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,924551,00.asp

-> The best way to pitch eWEEK

“If you’re just sending out a storage pitch to everyone, it’s not going to be well received,” says Donston. Know who covers storage, as well as what that person has written in the past.

Donston finds it surprising that some people who pitch stories apparently do not read the publication. An understanding of eWEEK goes a long way toward a more successful relationship.

The editorial calendar, at http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,105,00.asp can help give an understanding of the magazine’s focus and what direction it is heading for future issues. Anything scheduled before publication is there, 90% of which is for Labs’ Big Picture stories.

Persistence is key at eWEEK. “We get dozens and dozens of emails every day, so even with the best of intentions, things slip through the cracks,” she says. That means emailing first, then calling to follow up, even if editors sound exasperated at the interruption.

Six more useful pitch tips:

1. Focus your pitch. Tell whom you represent, what the product is, why it is different.

2. Do not send a generic press release. Tailor it to eWEEK and the eWEEK reader.

3. Understand the magazine’s lead times, they are different depending on what section you are pitching. (For deadlines, see below.)

4. Do not take forever to get to the good stuff. Make your point early.

5. If it is a case study you are pitching, let them know it has not appeared anywhere else.

6. Do not send a story idea based on an editorial calendar item that may have changed. They have got a calendar for you, keep up with it.

7. Do not trust third parties who publish editorial calendars of a variety of publications, as they often are not up to date.

Pet peeves:

Some PR folks expect Donston to do all the work, she says. “I’ll get emails where they ask for contact names, lead times, and coverage details for 5 or 6 of the editorial calendar items. I can’t do that.”

Also, do not call in January for something that is scheduled, say, for June.

Last but not least, do not begin your pitch by saying, “Here’s a story for you.” It is unclear and off-putting. “If they mean an unsolicited story, there’s no reason for me to open that email because we don’t accept them. If they mean a story idea, that would turn me off.”

-> What they look for in printed materials

They do not, unless they have requested you send something specific. “Email is our primary source of info,” says Donston. “Snail mail and fax are almost disregarded unless we’ve asked for it.”

-> Deadlines

For the scheduled editorial, the deadline is four to six weeks out.

For Labs’ weekly reviews, they publish reviews of products no later than a month after it has been released. If they get a heads up that the product is coming, an analyst can put it on the calendar and they will agree not to divulge it until a certain date.

For news, the earlier, the better.

Online deadlines are ongoing, they update the site with breaking news several times daily.

-> Submitting pre-written contributions

Nope.

-> Becoming a regular columnist

Because they are providing an unbiased, broad view of the industry, Donston says, they are not interested in hiring columnists who may be CEOs of companies talking about their expertise. They are not currently looking for any new columnists, anyway.

-> Where you can meet Donston

“We do visits with vendors all the time both in Woburn and San Francisco,” she says. The best way to set up meeting is to email with a phone follow up. “If a company has a new product and it’s one that we cover and is key to our readers, more often than not we’ll try to meet with them.”

As for trade shows, they are finding it is more beneficial to attend the smaller, more focused shows rather than the big giants.

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