JOURNALIST Q&A: Stephen Wildstrom

As tech columnist for one of the nation's most prestigious business publications, Stephen Wildstrom gets a lot of pitches. And he's seen enough bad ones to recommend that PR pros check out his personal website (www.wildstrom.com/steve) before contacting him. Here he talks about what it takes to get into his column.

As tech columnist for one of the nation's most prestigious business publications, Stephen Wildstrom gets a lot of pitches. And he's seen enough bad ones to recommend that PR pros check out his personal website (www.wildstrom.com/steve) before contacting him. Here he talks about what it takes to get into his column.

PRWeek: What sets your Technology & You column apart from the work of writers like Walt Mossberg and Stephen Manes? Stephen Wildstrom: First off, Walt and Steve are both friends; in Walt's case, since long before either of us did technology. I started my column three or four years after Walt, so I had to give differentiation a lot of thought, since a very large percentage of our subscribers also get The Wall Street Journal. My basic decision at the beginning was to focus more on readers' work lives, while Walt takes more of a personal focus. That's changed some over time, as consumer electronics have become a bigger part of the tech franchise and personal computers have become fairly boring commodities, but it's still basically true. For example, Walt would never write about Microsoft Exchange, and I write a lot less than he does about music downloads. There's a somewhat similar - though less clear - differentiation from Manes, though reader overlap is less of a problem. PRWeek: Is there a set of criteria that a product must meet before you review it? Wildstrom: Two fairly obvious ones that a surprising number of products that I am pitched fail: It has to be of interest to my readers, and it has to work. Beyond that, it gets harder. I write 49 or 50 columns a year, but I see at least 200 or 300 products a year, so obviously, I look at a lot of stuff I never write about. And my decision not to write about a given product is not necessarily a judgment on its value; given that ratio, a lot of good products don't make the cut. That can happen for a lot of reasons, including many that have little or nothing to do with the product itself. Among other things, I have to worry about the mix of products I write about, the broadness of their appeal to my readership, and, by no means least, whether I feel I really have anything to say about it. PRWeek: Is there a kind of product you'd like to see more of? And is there a class of products that you won't review but that PR people still pitch to you? Wildstrom: I would guess that fully half of the products that I am pitched are of no interest to me. I just threw away e-mails trying to set up briefings on a network storage-caching product and a network intrusion-detection appliance. I'm sure they are fine products, but they are no fit whatsoever for my column and any PR person doing his or her job would know that. Pitching me is wasting my time and the client's money. ----- Name Stephen Wildstrom Publication BusinessWeek Title Technology columnist Preferred contact method steve_wildstrom@businessweek.com. Website businessweek.com

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