2020 has been a trying year; every industry across the world has felt the ramifications of COVID-19, and tech journalism is no different. Muck Rack and Panasonic surveyed more than 450 tech journalists for their “The State of Tech Journalism in 2020” report. Last week they hosted a webinar discussing their findings with tech journalists Teena Maddox, Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic; Hayden Field, Emerging Tech Writer at The Morning Brew; and Ed Baig, freelance tech reporter and former USA Today Personal Tech Columnist. Here are three interesting takeaways from that report:
Remote work and virtual communications were hot topics.
Journalists reported that remote work and virtual communication media coverage increased 54% in 2020, with 78% stating that their reporting has focused entirely on pandemic-related topics. Webinar panelist Ed Baig had this to say about the pandemic and its effects on reporting:
“You still have to try really hard to find the one COVID angle that all the other journalists and media outlets haven’t yet figured out to cover, because that’s obviously a problem, everybody’s still looking for their unique weigh-in on it. So, I guess it’s not surprising that COVID would have influenced not only how we work, but certainly the stories that we wrote about… Even today, you know, ‘I found the one COVID thing that nobody else in the world has found,’ and obviously that’s a hard thing to do.”
Virtual events caused mixed feelings.
Trade shows and conferences went virtual this year due to social distancing. Clumsy coordination and bad internet connections were off-putting to journalists, resulting in less event coverage. Not only that, with so many people logging-in to watch these events, the chances of securing an exclusive dropped drastically.
On the other hand, journalists like Hayden Field (another webinar panelist) discovered some positive aspects to events going virtual, saying, “it’s nice to be able to get the tape version afterwards, go back and check quotes. There are a lot of benefits to it.”
Zoom has also provided an easy alternative for virtual events – with 82% of respondents calling it their preferred platform. Perhaps that’s why nearly half responded they were more likely to report on a virtual event than an in-person event in 2021. The time of year is also a factor in whether tech journalists will cover events: 70% stated embargoed briefings ahead of the holiday season would make it easier to write on events in 2021.
Pitches got a digital makeover.
Journalists flocked to social media for company announcements, where Twitter reigned supreme: over two-thirds of journalists received pitches via the platform while LinkedIn and YouTube ranked second and third, respectively. And those clunky virtual events? Almost half the respondents claimed pitches around said events weren’t personalized to them or their coverage areas. And tech journalists are just as worn down by 2020 as the rest of us: 31% said they were less likely to respond to pitches this year than they were in 2019.
When it comes to how they like to be pitched, the webinar panelists all agreed e-mail was the way to go. Hayden even credited PR firms for getting quick responses, saying, “it helps to have a lot of these other companies with dedicated PR people.”
The state of tech journalism will continue to change well into the next year, making it more critical than ever to strategize for unpredictable times. Refer to the in-depth report next time you’re planning a pitch to increase the likelihood of securing plenty of great news coverage.