Drew Cullen, editor in chief at Situation Publishing, which owns The Register and The Next Platform, talks to Gorkana about integrity in journalism, the challenges facing tech media and the publications’ plans for the future.
What is your ethos at Situation Publishing?
Our aim is to deliver independent, analytical and original journalism to technology professionals worldwide. More than this, we put our readers first, always. In other words, if we get it right for our readers then the advertisers will follow.
How have The Register and The Next Platform changed over the years?
The Register started out as an occasional email newsletter in 1994. In 1998 it became a daily news site. It has retained its B2B tech focus and has always been online-only.
It has changed surprisingly little over the years, if you looked at The Register in 1998 or 1999 you’d be in familiar territory, and that’s one thing our readers like. Our editorial voice has remained consistent over the years. So much is changing in technology; we offer our readers a sense of continuity and a fresh take on the technology news, as written by the experts.
The Next Platform is only two years-old, but from day one it has been a must-read for anyone interested in high performance computing. It is a publication of the deep dive, of the long read and it helps enormously that the editor-founders Nicole Hemsoth and Tim Prickett Morgan are at the top of their game. They get lots of scoops.
What sort of stories are doing well at the moment?
IT security is a perennial favourite; outages; where Tech meets Trump or Brexit; CES inanities; Raspberry Pi; Artificial Intelligence; What Big Tech – Microsoft, Google, HPE, Oracle, and so on – is up to.
How can PR professionals help you with your content output?
Get to know The Register and the individual writers. Avoid spamming the entire editorial team with a pitch or with client news.
We receive a lot of generic pitches of no relevance, by email and on the phone. This wastes everyone’s time. By reading The Register and following writers you can figure out if what you are pitching is the kind of thing that The Register or the individual would naturally pick-up. Develop a relationship with the writer, so get off of email and get on the phone – talk to writers to figure out what they are working on and how you can help by offering unique angles, leads or material.
When we’re working on news and come to you with questions or for comment, ensure you know the subject in question and the basic facts to provide an immediate response. If it’s a more complicated request, such as breaking news or a proactive request for building news, features or interviews, demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness by coming back to us with useful information, answers or follow-ups within a reasonable time.
What do you wish they would remember when pitching to you?
Pitching is not a box-ticking exercise – ‘I mass emailed the press release and called to follow up to see if they’d received it, job done’. So, call us – but do your homework first!
Don’t be scared: we are civil. We expect journalists to be inquisitive and ask questions every day, to not take a press release at face value. This does not mean we are hostile, it is called ‘doing our job’.
The Register does not take contributed content. (Pro tip: infographics do not work).
What are the challenges associated with tech journalism?
Many of our competitors have scaled back their editorial teams, sometimes savagely. You know who they are – the ones who take all your contributed content. So let’s acknowledge that the financial pressures of tech publishing have a direct impact on the health of tech journalism. This is an existential issue. The challenges below are merely that, challenges … and somewhat random.
- US tech companies playing the access game to keep tech reporters docile.
- Beat reporters going native with the companies they write about.
- Reporters and editors with deep tech knowledge and love for tech are hard to find. And the talent pool is shrinking. If you care about your editorial product you have to bring on board young reporters, help them develop and accept that they will, like most first and second jobbers do, move on at some point.
- Write well for real people not for algorithms. Remember, Facebook is your enemy not your friend.
- Quality first, then page impressions. That means holding your nerve while the herd is descending on the latest story trending on Google News. Better still, wean yourself off Google News – it is not your audience, and those blow-ins never stick around.
What are your plans for Situation Publishing in 2017?
A big focus for us is building our events portfolio. For years we have hosted small events such as evening lectures aimed at our readers, but in 2016 we hosted our first three-day conference, Continuous Lifecycle London, which we ran in collaboration with the German publisher, Heise Medien, who already run a German equivalent. It was a sell-out success and we plan to run another two conferences in 2017 as well as repeating Continuous Lifecycle.
We are building a European publishing federation with Heise – we call it the Anseatic Alliance – to accommodate vendors who want to buy advertising solutions across Western Europe through a single service point.