How I Decide What to Write About-And Why I Might Not Cover Your Company

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the region’s major venture firms. I also hang out at tech incubators and attend their demo day presentations, which gives me a chance to meet lots of new companies quickly.

Going to conferences and events—5 percent. There are some worthwhile events out there—O’Reilly Media does a nice job, as do Google and the Churchill Club. But generally, a conference crawling with other journalists is the last place I’d expect to find an original story. I’m particularly averse to the big company-centric conferences that cycle through San Francisco’s Moscone Center, like MacWorld or Dreamforce. The news that the companies and related vendors want to share at these events is usually prepackaged crap, designed to turn journalists into marketing communications vessels, to be indelicate about it.

Followup stories about companies I’ve covered in the past—10 percent. Once I know a company’s founders and their basic story, it’s much easier and faster for me to put together a followup story a few months down the road, perhaps something giving the context around a business model shift or an important product release. The 10 percent figure will inevitably go up over time, as we add more Bay Area stories to our archives.

Random stuff I stumble across—20 percent. As a gamer, traveler, photographer, gadget geek, and digital media consumer, I’m always coming across cool tech products and services. Sometimes I’ll look up the creators and profile them; sometimes I’ll just immerse myself in the technology for a while and then report back to readers. My Friday column, which you’re reading now, is one regular venue for such subjects. It’s the one chance I have each week to set aside Xconomy’s usual hyperlocal focus and write about whatever gadgets, apps, or digital media trends catch my fancy.

How I Decide Which Stories to Write, and Which Not to Write

I don’t have a simple flowchart that dictates whether I will pursue a given story idea. But the first four questions I ask do have fairly binary, yes/no answers.

Does this story pertain to a company in the Bay Area? I get a surprising number of pitches from people who don’t understand that Xconomy is hyperlocal. Perhaps we haven’t done a very good job of explaining it, but we believe that innovation is best understood through a local lens, which means we focus exclusively on companies and organizations based in six major U.S. innovation hubs: Boston, Detroit, New York, San Diego, San Francisco (meaning the whole Bay Area), and Seattle. I’m responsible for our Bay Area infotech and energy coverage. If a company isn’t headquartered in the Bay Area, I won’t write about it. If it’s life sciences related, then I’ll send it to our national biotech editor, Luke Timmerman. If the company is headquartered in one of our other home cities, I can put you in touch with the appropriate editor there.

Is this story being offered under embargo? I don’t like to work under embargo, for reasons I explained at length in a recent column. So I always turn these pitches away, and ask the person to get back in touch on or after the embargo date. (Note: this is my personal policy, not an Xconomy-wide policy. And exclusives provided under advance embargo are another matter entirely—I love those, of course.)

Is this idea about a startup that’s already been covered to death in TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, TheNextWeb, Business Insider, etc.? If so, chances are I won’t write about it. I can make my best, most original contributions when I find companies whose stories haven’t been told—where nobody has taken the time to … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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