Hello Evan. So, there are a lot of consumer tech publications out there; how do you give Trusted Reviews an edge on your competitors and keep readers interested?
TrustedReviews will be celebrating its ten year anniversary in September. That’s ten years of building consumer trust by providing well-researched and truly impartial reviews. Few other tech sites have that sort of pedigree, but we have to make sure we keep moving forward and keep providing consumers with what they want and need.
While the whole team is made up of technology geeks, we aim to provide accessible reviews that are not just focused on benchmarks and numbers. We cover how it is to live with a product, as well as being upfront about what else is on the market and whether there are better options for that individual consumer.
This is an area where many other tech publications tiptoe around. They neglect to provide useful and accurate advice to consumers regarding the best product for their needs.
You’ve been editing TrustedReviews for eight months now; how has the title changed under your leadership?
TrustedReviews has been a big player for many years now but I knew it could be bigger. I wanted to make sure the maximum number of people read the tech reviews, features and news we spend so much time and effort creating.
Much of my initial time was spent restructuring, reorganising and looking at improving the foundation of the publication, the actual website itself. Creating a much closer working relationship with the development team has paid huge dividends and they are now a part of the TrustedReviews team, offering ideas and working hard at making it the best possible site for users.
In terms of editorial, much of my work has been concentrated around tweaking and improving the already solid review methodology to ensure maximum consistency. I also work closely with the deputy editor to find ways of providing more accessible reviews without losing the in-depth elements.
We have also dramatically increased our news and features output to match the high volume of reviews in the last few months, becoming more rounded as a technology publication.
Perhaps the biggest change I’ve brought, in terms of pure numbers, is ensuring TrustedReviews makes the most of big products people are really interested in. Together with other changes, this has led to monthly unique visitors doubling year-on-year.
Is there anything you’re really excited about that’s coming up for TrustedReviews?
We’ve got big plans coming up for TrustedReviews that I can’t get into too much detail about yet. I can say we are looking to expand the range of products we review to cover more domestic appliances.
Traditionally, not very complex devices like washing machines, vacuums and even toasters are getting more and more technologically advanced. Wi-Fi connections seem to be a given now for every device and the connected home is quickly becoming a reality.
Describe a typical reader…how many of them are there?
TrustedReviews has really broadened its appeal over the last year. Our readers range from people who want to know what the very best phone to buy is, savvy shoppers looking for the best bang-for-buck, and real tech-heads who want to always be up-to-date on the latest technology news.
The appeal is backed up by hard numbers. We are now regularly getting more than five million visitors reading our content every month. The great thing is they’re also an engaged audience. We get more than 200k hours of monthly engagement on the site, and we’ve got a very healthy community of regular commenters.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
There are a number of factors we look at before we decide what to cover. Firstly we look at whether our core audience is interested in it, then whether the general public is interested in it and finally whether it’s something that we think is cool or interesting.
We’ve started to A/B test headlines, which is great fun and gets quite competitive. One of us will write a headline and then another will try to increase the click through rate on that article by improving the headline. It’s amazing how even very small changes can effect people’s desire to read a piece.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Professionalism, integrity, and engaging copy. Everything else can be easily developed.
Do you tend to work with the same PRs or do you receive contributions from a wide range of sources?
We work with a range of PRs and receive contributions from a wide range of sources.
Of all the press releases you receive on a daily basis, what percentage of them make it to publication?
It’s hard to say. If it’s pitched the right way there’s a good chance it will be picked up. If it’s about a big product or provides and interesting angle then we’d probably cover it.
Spamming is a danger. If I get too many irrelevant press releases from an agency I’ll tend to start skipping over them. The problem with that is that when there is a release that fits the TrustedReviews audience there’s a chance it will get overlooked.
To get the most out of some niche product press releases I think PRs should act more like snipers. Pick the right targets and hit them hard. I’m happy to get a call from an enthusiastic PR who has done their homework and knows the types of news and features TrustedReviews regularly covers. I can be convinced about how the release can fit the audience.
Press releases about big products, on the other hand, will get covered anyway. For those it’s important to put across the message you want the publication to take to the consumer.
Do you find that your idea of what makes a story and a PR's tends to differ? How?
It’s always useful to have interesting, well-researched, statistics and angles. It’s also really important for the press release to not be just a hard sell.
Readers are very savvy and quite cynical these days so press releases that sound like advertorials are less likely to be picked up. Provide insight into the industry, or bring some controversy, however, and you’ll stand a better chance. If it’s a product why is it better than what’s currently on the market? How is it better than the competition? What’s the USP? How does it push technology forward? What insight does this survey or report provide?
A pet peeve is when I get a trickle of press releases of, for example, a range of smaller products that are being launched one day after another. Individually they’re not big enough to cover, but collectively we would cover them in one big news story.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet?
The day starts with the developers on the scrum board for a quick catch-up on what’s been done. Then it’s straight upstairs for a 15 minute morning meeting with the editorial team. Here we divvy-up tasks, cover yesterday’s analytics and discuss the day’s events.
Aside from that, days are quite varied. When I have time away from meetings and events I write a feature or news story, but I predominately focus on reviews, with some subbing thrown in for good measure.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I’ve had quite a varied career. It started in 2001 when I was an editorial and digital assistant at Emap before a move to IPC in 2002. In the last seven years, prior to rejoining IPC, I’ve founded, helped market, and developed a number of innovative online, mobile and technology hardware start-ups. During this period I’ve worked with companies such as Which?, MoneySupermarket, BT, IBM and EE.
Having been in the challenging position of creating technology products means that I can have discussions with manufacturers and tech companies other journalists wouldn’t normally be able to.
Do you have any projects outside of journalism?
As a journalist I think it’s important to understand product development processes and the challenges innovative companies have when trying to make an impact. It’s easy to be a critic, what’s difficult is to know why decisions were made, what trade-offs took place and why.
I believe technology publications should help companies shape and improve their products, as opposed to just grabbing headlines.
This is why I actively advise several start-up companies and mentor for Springboard.com, a leading start-up accelerator.
And, finally, are there any upcoming tech releases that you think are going to be revolutionary?
Google Glass will, by no means, be the finished article, but I believe it will start a wave of entirely new human interactions with technology. There are exciting times ahead.
The team are tweeting @trustedreviews.