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Meet the media: Dan Grabham, TechRadar.com


Written by Paul Stallard

Dan Grabham

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My meet the media interview this week is with Dan Grabham the deputy editor of TechRadar.com. Dan provides an intriguing perspective of how being a journalist has changed in the past few years to maximise the potential of the online world. I was particularly interested to hear his views about Twitter and how it has allowed him to feel more in control of what is happening in the industry.

Name: Dan Grabham
Title I work for: Deputy Editor, TechRadar.com

Paul Stallard: What is your pet hate of PR?
Dan Grabham: I guess it’s the usual journalist pet hate: PRs that phone but have no idea of who they’re ringing or who our target audience is. Generally, it’s business-related stuff. However, one little bugbear of mine is when I’m off to an event and I give the PR my personal mobile number – which they then ring me on to pitch subsequently. I know many journos have work mobiles, but we don’t.

PS: What is the best way to contact you?
DG: Definitely email. I’m often out of the office and people often remark how difficult I am to get hold of on the desk phone. Everything in my inbox is something I need to act upon and if someone has sent me a personal mail, it stays in there 98 per cent of the time until I reply to it. Twitter is OK, but I’m not so keen on it for people pitching to me. A quick “do you want this?” is fine though.

PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the title you write for before contacting you?
DG: I’d say so these days. When I worked on magazines at Future – like .net or PC Format, for example – many didn’t. The PRs that don’t know what TechRadar is or read it tend to be those pitching irrelevant stories. I still get a couple of calls a month that refer to us as a magazine.

PS: What is your top tip for PR professionals?
DG: Get back to us! And as quickly as possible. Even if it’s to say you can’t give us what we want. I’ve lost track of the times we’ve asked for an image/comment/details and the PR simply hasn’t come back on it. I don’t necessarily think it’s their fault – they just didn’t get anything out of the company. I’m OK if the company doesn’t want to release any more info, but I need to know either way. Also, being online means we now need to publish stories within minutes if it’s news or certainly within hours or days if it’s a feature. I still quite often get replies to requests for quotes or other information many days later.

PS: How many emails / calls do you get a day?
DG: Calls? Hard to gauge but I guess 10-20. Emails – a lot! I’d say 150 a day but some are internal as we have a split team between London and Bath (although we use IM mostly internally).

PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
DG: Twitter has had a colossal effect. It has sped the process of newsgathering and reporting up even further than the basic web did. Now we know the instant something has happened if we aren’t there or can report it in an instant on Twitter if we are. I actually feel much more in control as a result of using Twitter. There’s so much happening in tech it can be a real pain to keep track of. When I first started working online, it I felt like I just couldn’t keep on top of everything. Twitter enables me to have an overview in a way that not even RSS could. I tend to use Facebook for my personal stuff and Twitter for work, though of course there is some crossover. I don’t add PRs or product managers on Facebook unless I’ve met them/have some rapport with them but am happy to after that.

PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
DG: Definitely. I’m not the biggest advocate of SEO as a fine art but the advantage of keywording, structure and clarity is obvious. You don’t have to dump everything you learned while writing offline, but you do need to sharpen your focus.

PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
DG: I still think there’s a real future for print, but I fear that there will be a lot less titles around in a decade’s time.

PS: Bar your own, which news titles do you read?
DG: I read all the other key UK tech sites as well as Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Engadget in the main. As for newspaper, it would tend to be The Guardian, though I tend to read more online than the paper these days.

PS: What is the worst case of PR you have come across?
DG: One PR for a big US software company recently lost my request for an important piece I was working on! One of those things, but potentially if was problematic.

PS: Are there any PR agencies you have black listed because of bad practices?
DG: No, I think that’s a pointless road to go down. However, I do have a couple that don’t impress me much! However, I mentioned to another tech journo about one agency, and he absolutely loved them!

PS: Do you believe journalists are rude to PR professionals?
DG: Absolutely. And I think it’s completely unnecessary. If people sound inexperienced, they probably are – the last thing they need is for some hack to shout at them down the phone. But the rudest journos I have come across tend to be at events. I have been to two launches recently where the same journalists (and it is usually the same journalists) were heckling the presentation and just turned up for the free stuff. They give the rest of us a bad name.

PS: Is being London based an advantage for PR professionals?
DG: Well, I guess it still is. But we’re not London-based and so I don’t think it especially matters personally. Events and launches naturally tend to take place in London – which is perfectly understandable. I’m more than happy to come to London for important briefings and launches but when people come to Bath to see us we really do appreciate it.

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