TechJournalists.com is one that seems to be working
As the media world continues its shift from print to digital, the publishing community struggles to find out how to make it all work. Lower ad revenues have forced magazines in particular to make some difficult decisions. The most difficult may be the reduction of editorial staff considering these media outlets still needs to produce the same (or even more) content to generate the ad revenue back. It leaves these media outlets in a conundrum: How do we produce quality content without the resources we need? Many outlets are leaning on the public sector, accepting content from “industry experts”. Others are relying on junior staffers or keeping a few talented (yet overworked) editors. The sad reality is that content is needed more today than ever before, yet jobs for writers are scarce. The journalists of yesterday need to network and market themselves like never before. Good content is no longer enough. Good content at a good price is now publishing’s Holy Grail.
Back in the spring of 2010, I sat at a table in the press room of a then popular tech conference in New York. I have run MRB Public Relations, a tech-focused PR firm since the early 90s and have become friendly with many of the writers I had worked with over the years. They still call me a blood sucking leach, but they do so lovingly. Among this table of “friends” included writers and editors from former publishing giants, Ziff Davis and CMP Media. The conversation went something like this:
Contributing writer (to his editor): You need to give me more work. I have a family to feed (said much more colorfully).
Editor: I wish I could. MY freelance budget is next to nothing.
Staff writer: Which is why he throws all of your old work to me. I can’t keep up this pace. I’m burning out.
The collective nods and smirks cued everyone in on the problem and we began to put our heads together.
The conversation got me thinking about how to keep the freelancer/contributors writing. Creating a sort of clearing house to offer these talented writers out for marketing related projects (case studies, white papers, collateral, web content, blogs, etc.) was a no brainer. We created TechJournalists.com to do just that - adding on items like speaking engagements (for user conferences), internal reviews (to improve products), and talent (for company videos). We saw the shift begin to occur when we approached the publishers. First we obtained permission for writers to associate their names with the media outlets. Then we approached a sampling of publishers to see if they would accept content from their approved writers list, writers who would receive payment from TechJournalist.com. The answers surprised us. As long as they had editing rights, they would love free content, provided it wasn’t promotional in nature. We agreed to create a method that would keep the editorial authenticity. TechJournalists.com provides a pitch to the, publisher. If the pitch is accepted, the publisher then assigns a writer that we recommend. The writer is assigned the pitch from the publisher, having no idea who paid. The publisher gets the same quality story without dipping into their freelance budget and the writer gets paid by TechJournalists.com. TechJournalists.com has been doing this now for two years. The editorial that is created is indecipherable from a publication’s existing content (which is what makes it all work). Most of the stories that are written today come from one of the 30+ writers in our network. The stories are turned around and pitched to targeted and approved media outlets by TechJournalist.com. Many of the publishers initially hesitant to work with us have reconsidered after seeing the success of TechJournalists.com. Our network has grown to include the best writers in the business. Writers are only added if their beat/topic is one that we cover. We also closely monitor the number of writers we have in each category. Limiting the number of writers allows us to provide a consistent flow or work, which is the whole idea.
As the editorial world continues to change, writers and media outlets need to think differently about how to continue to deliver high quality content. Writers need to write, and we all need to find ways to keep the best ones doing so.
Michael Becce is President and CEO at MRB Public Relations, Inc. and founder of TechJournalists.com