Gorkana Meets…Owen Thomas

Published: May 22, 2014

Firstly, tell us a bit about your role and the team.

I’m the Editor-in-Chief of ReadWrite, which means that I define our editorial vision, lead our editorial team, and represent the newsroom internally and externally.

We have a team of journalists who have worked at the Wall Street Journal, CNET, Time Inc., USA Today, and other prestigious outlets. We have diverse backgrounds, but we share a passion for explaining technology—not just breathlessly reporting the latest microdevelopments, but mapping out the big trends and putting them in context and perspective.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m up before dawn most days touching base with my East Coast editors, Dan Rowinski and Dave Smith. Then it’s a gym break and off to the office. I might lead an editorial meeting, meet with a company, write a column, and plan an event—all in a day.

What sort of content are you keen to feature?

Do we have to use the word “content”? One of my editors, David Hamilton, recently pointed out how distasteful that term is. Stories. We like to tell stories at ReadWrite. True stories that illuminate our connected future.

What do you wish you were covering more of?

I think we could go deeper on stories that affect developers and explain how that news, in turn, affects consumers. Our best topics have crossover appeal to both developers and consumers. Chromecast, for example: To consumers, it’s a cheap and interesting new gadget. To developers, it’s a whole new platform to experiment with.

How can PRs help with content?

Start by not trying to help us with content. We want to tell stories. Stories require protagonists and antagonists, tension, struggle. Don’t tell me how great things are going for your client. Tell me how rough things really are.

We’re not a financial publication. We don’t write about other people’s money. So don’t bother us with funding news or other venture-capital trivia.

How and when is the best way for PRs to contact you and the team?

I’m usually not the best frontline contact. Our writers have pretty well-defined beats which you can gather by reading their output, minus the occasional pinch-hitting to cover breaking news. Pay attention to those. If it’s not a writer’s beat, consider the possibility that it may not be a story for us, period.

A well-crafted email pitch will get consideration, but I really mean it when I say it must be well-crafted.

What should PRs bear in mind when pitching in story ideas?

We’re less interested in fully formed story ideas and more in interesting people. We’re pretty good at finding the stories when we can talk to the builders of new technology.

Do you think the relationship between journalists and PRs has changed from when you first started you career? If so, in which way?

In 1997, I recall lecturing PR people about sending press releases by fax, or worse, FedEx. So wasteful, so slow! I used to think email was the answer, but it’s become part of the problem. I’d focus more on making your clients easy to find and talk to—a “pull” model instead of “push."

What other industry publications do you read and respect for their content or style?

I’ve read Wired and Fast Company practically from the beginning. Still do. Kara Swisher and her team at Re/code are always delivering scoops—I actually find myself reading Mike Isaac and Peter Kafka more than Swisher. When I want to pop out of the daily noise of news, Technology Review* is a refreshing brain sorbet.

Do you have any guilty pleasure reading?

I just read “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.” On paper, from the library. Other than that it’s The New Yorker. Sorry, not much guilt in those pleasures.

What is the best thing about doing your job?

Getting to support writers and pushing them to do their best.

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