If you keep up with technology news, David Pogue will be a familiar name. From writing the weekly tech column for the New York Times for 13 years, to launching Yahoo Tech in 2013, David is a tech media veteran with plenty of pitching advice to share. In our interview, he shares two of his favorite pitches, both of which are quite clever and unique. He’s seen thousands of pitches throughout his career so the more personalized and creative, the better.
1. What publications/ outlets are you currently reporting for?
YahooTech.com, Scientific American, NOVA (on PBS), “CBS Sunday Morning”
2. What topics/ beats/ stories are of special interest to you right now?
Tech, science, and their impact on society and culture.
3. Please provide a brief bio.
I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a hardcore music and theater geek. Won the 1976 Ohio Spelling Bee. Boy Scouts, school musicals, played piano, banjo, and harmonica.
I graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1985, with distinction in Music, and then spent ten years conducting and arranging Broadway musicals in New York.
Wrote for Macworld magazine for 13 years, the weekly tech column in the New York Times for 13 years, then joined Yahoo in 2013 to start a new site, Yahoo Tech. Have written 80 books, including seven books in the “for Dummies” series (including Macs, Magic, Opera, and Classical Music) and 50 in my own series of complete, funny computer books called the Missing Manual series.
I’ve won three Emmy awards, two Webby awards, a Loeb award for journalism, and an honorary doctorate in music. I live in Connecticut with my wife Nicki (who does high-tech PR) and three children.
4. Why did you become a journalist?
That wasn’t my intention. Turns out I’m pretty good at explaining tech and science to laymen, so that’s been the thrust of my career.
5. What stories (or project) of yours are you most proud of and why?
I love exposing corporate misdeeds and greed. In 2009, I started a national “Take Back the Beep” campaign to end the stupid 15-second “how to leave a voicemail” instructions that we get on cellphones every time we leave a message, and wound up getting 3 of the 4 carriers to end that practice.
Another time, I caught Verizon stealing from millions of customers via the Up Arrow button, triggering instant $2 charges. Verizon denied it, but the FCC eventually investigated; the company ultimately came clean, and refunded $90 million to customers.
6. What’s the best pitch you ever got?
There were two, really; I wrote them up here:
One was a YouTube video made by the employees of a company called CodeWeavers. Their app, CrossOver Impersonator, lets you run certain Windows programs on a Mac—without having to own a copy of Windows.
So in the pitch video, they address me directly, claim to be big fans. And in keeping with the product name, they’re dressed as, well, crossover impersonators—of Cher and Dorothy (from “The Wizard of Oz”). It’s hilarious: http://bit.ly/eONTB8
7. What was so good about it?
Personalized, creative, memorable. That’s the key to a great pitch.
8. What are some tips for people who want to pitch you a story?
Personalize the email. Do not send out email blasts. Know the journalist’s work. Don’t embarrass yourself by pitching something to a reviewer who’s already reviewed your thing. Know the journalist’s work. Refer to something he’s written recently that you enjoyed. “I’ve enjoyed your coverage of MP3 toothbrushes in the past, so I thought you might like to try my client’s new…”
Eliminate the B.S. corporate quote in paragraph 2 of your press release; we know your CEO never uttered those words.
Pitch us by email—never, never by phone. We are busy!
9. When do you prefer to be pitched? How much lead-time, or what days/times are most appropriate?