MIAMI — A glut of information. A proliferation of media platforms — print, digital, video. New social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. How is all this changing the way writers, editors and publicists do their jobs successfully?
That was the question put to a panel of editors Friday morning at a joint meeting of Boating Writers International and the Marine Marketers of America during the Progressive Miami International Boat Show on Miami’s Virginia Key.
“The times they are a-changing,” moderator Michael Sciulla said, borrowing a refrain from the Bob Dylan song. “The digital revolution has profoundly changed the media landscape. What do we have to do to succeed?”
Talking about emailed press releases and story pitches, David Pilvilait, chief operating officer of Home Port Marketing, said writers and publicists must “cut through the clutter” to reach editors.
The panelists — Pilvilait; Kevin Falvey, editor-in-chief of Boating; Marilyn Mower, editorial director-USA at Boating International Media; Jim Rhodes, president and CEO of Rhodes Communications; and Bill Sisson, editor-in-chief of Soundings Trade Only and Anglers Journal — said they receive 70 to 120 emails a day.
Many go unread.
Rhodes said writers must carefully target their subject line on an email, use an effective content format to deliver a convincing story pitch to an editor and judicially use embedded video so as not to waste an editor’s time.
He said writers and publicists must know what will catch an editor’s eye, but none of this a substitute for face-to-face meetings with editors and actually getting an editor on a boat in order to pitch the story idea.
“Relationships matter,” Rhodes said.
Consumers of information are inundated 24 hours a day, Sisson said. Editors are working not just on a 30-day magazine cycle, but also on daily news cycles on the Internet. Writers have to be fast, prolific, flexible and produce consistently compelling content, he said.
“We still fall short,” he said, partly because editorial staffs that are responsible for generating print, digital and video content are smaller than they were before the Great Recession shook up the industry.
Writers must be able to produce shorts for daily news deadlines and long-form journalism for monthly and quarterly products, and the stories must be better written and more deeply reported because of competing demands on readers’ attention.
Editorial content “has to be compelling. It has to resonate, strike a chord with people, whether it’s a 500-word or 5,000-word piece,” he said.
Mower offered a number of tips to freelance writers pitching stories to editors: Sharpen your subject line to catch an editor’s eye; know your market and only pitch the stories appropriate to a publication; personalize the pitch — “this is what I can offer you and your publication;” and use the right media platform to achieve your purpose when you’re pitching a story or publicizing your company.
Falvey said most people spend perhaps 10 to 15 seconds watching product videos. “So why are most of our videos three to five minutes?” he asked.
Depending on the media platform, short — very short — often is preferable to long, he said.
“People are not diving in and kicking back in their easy chair and consuming our content like nothing else happens in their lives,” he said.
They often are busy people with a short attention span. “You have to think episodicity,” he said. “Don’t try to tell your whole story in one sitting. Just tell part of it. Tell the rest later.”
Yet several editors pointed out that there still is an appetite for good long-form journalism if it’s something the reader really cares about. Long-form content still has its place in boating journalism, Rhodes said.