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Nov 09, 2001

How to Influence Media Buyers & Planners

SUMMARY: Every business morning at 10am eastern time, 11,000 media buyers and planners at major ad agencies across America get their copy of Media Life to learn what's up.áá Our profile of Media Life's Editor Gene Ely reveals how you can get your name, media property, or company mentioned in the newsletter.
PROFILE #8 in Our Continuing Series on Marketing Journalists

E.S. (Gene) Ely
Editor & Publisher
Media Life
V: 201.489.4546
E: (prefers email)

Circulation as of 11/01:

The daily newsletter has 11,000 subscribers, who are nearly 100% media planners and media buyers at ad agencies, or media industry bigwigs. Although Ely doesn't know his open rate (it's a text-only newsletter), an astonishing 55% of readers click through to the Web site every day.

Ely's background:

"I started as the Head Copy Boy at the Washington Post years ago," Ely says. He worked his way up at a variety of newspapers, including leading an alternative weekly in Richmond VA (still his favorite place in America, although he now lives in New Jersey.)

Ely, "fell in love with business journalism and writing stories about adults," during a stint as a Copyeditor for BusinessWeek, and in 1989 launched the award-winning Inside Media magazine for publisher Joe Hanson. It was at that time Ely began to dream of launching a magazine himself. He says, "I always knew I had a launch in me, but I didn't have $30 million."

Then the Internet came along, and in May 1999 he grabbed his chance to launch a magazine without the attendant costs of paper, printing or postage.

Now Ely works from home, managing a virtual team of 19 writers and contributors, and the demands of three Siamese cats who are happy to have him there.

Current editorial coverage:

As you would expect from a former newspaperman, Ely's focus is on daily news and very timely features. "If it's not there, you probably didn't have to know about it." Every story is written to appeal directly to media buying and planning professionals. News about Web sites, email newsletters, magazines, TV, radio and out-of-home advertising is included. Basically if there's something a media buyer might want to place an ad on, then it's covered in Media Life.

Ely says, "The coverage is very targeted toward media planning issues. We try to be as informative as we can be, and at the same time entertaining, and we try to get people to think. Not just tell them what happened, but get them to think about what it means for tomorrow. It's news magazine writing as opposed to AP style news writing."

What Ely looks for in a story pitch:

Just because Ely's looking for news, doesn't mean he won't can your press release if it's newsy yet boring. "I toss anything that tells me 'we just did something, our circ just went over such a numberů' That's not interesting." He can only keep his readers clicking through to his site if the stories are a really compelling read. So, you need to work on a good hook.

Your best bet is to pitch your own company as part of a wider issue or trend. Ely says, "If your publication, site or network is part of something that's interesting, it gives us a chance to write a bigger story. A category is more interesting than one magazine doing something."

But he notes, "PR people aren't paid to give us good story ideas, they're paid to send out releases and make calls and hope someone's gonna pick it up."

One more thing, "Don't hammer us with constant emails and phone calls about 'do you want to come in and meet executives?' We don't have time. Going to lunch with your publisher would be nice, but we're in the business of gathering stories daily. Daily deadline pressure means we don't have time to go through a lot of stuff traditional reporters have time to do."


Don't call Ely, or expect a reply to an email, until after 10am when the daily issue goes out.

Submitting pre-written contributions:

You have two options -- the first is to write a letter to the editor about a story that just appeared in Media Life. Ely is most interested in posting letters that are from media buyers and planners. The more interesting your letter is, the better chance it has of being posted. Ely doesn't mind if your letter disagrees with his articles, it just can't disagree in a boring way.

Your second option is to write a 500-600 word column with your take on a particular newsworthy trend or issue. Ely warns, "Don't simply talk about how cool you are. Also we don't accept pre-written stuff that you're shopping around to whoever will pick it up." So, before investing any time in writing, email Ely a quick pitch letter with your idea, asking for a go-ahead.

The nice thing is, anybody's column will be accepted if Ely thinks your idea is interesting. You don't need to be famous or work for a brand name company. You just have to be not dull. So this is a great opportunity for people and companies that are just starting to make a name for themselves.

Becoming a regular columnist:

There are no regular columnists.

Where you can meet Ely

You probably can't. Not in person anyway. He says, "I never do any trade shows. No speaking. I never get out from behind my computer. I literally don't."

Best gifts for Ely

He says, "Don't bother. Give the money to charity."

Ely's favorite professional publication

He doesn't have one particular favorite publication, but he does make a daily sweep through all the major news media Web sites that might have stories affecting the media industry.
See Also:

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