Profile picture for user Vanja.Lakic
Posted By
Vanja
Lakic

The Wall Street Journal published 3,707 stories in 2022 that mentioned AI or artificial intelligence. The majority ran when OpenAI released ChatGPT that November. In 2023 it was more than 6,000.

American reporters collectively published 7.1 million stories on AI from March 2023 to March 2024. Compare that to 800,000 stories on the metaverse. (Our data comes from SignalAI.)

More stories mean more reporters. Some are old hands, while others have had to learn from scratch. Suddenly AI is a part of many beats, from technology to software and finance. 

Bottom line – reporters' knowledge of AI varies. 

One thing they share is a full inbox. We’ve heard reporters getting 50 pitches a day. Even if all those emails get read, most don’t get answered

Reporters are tired. AI fatigue is setting in – and who can blame them? If a pitch seems too good to be true, their editors will say it problem is. Weak or obvious conclusions from an AI survey? It won’t make the paper. Thought leadership that’s neither timely nor filled with data? There’s simply no story. 

It may sound harsh – but it’s true. 

Who gets quoted? Mostly academics, private equity and venture capital investors, along with executives at leading companies. (OpenAI was the 7th most mentioned company in the media last year, behind Meta, Google, Microsoft and IBM).

Major newsmakers and bold, counterintuitive opinions interest journalists. Tech consultancies and business thought leaders, less so. 

So how do you stand out in a crowded AI media landscape?

The good news is that just about every publication is interested in AI. Thinking more creatively and across different audience channels (video, broadcast, newsletters, podcasts, live streams at events) can work. 

Here are some ideas to think about: 

What are you doing internally and what are your clients saying? I had been pitching WSJ reporter Angus Loten for months without success. He became known around our office as ‘the white whale’. One day I kicked off my pitch by acknowledging an article he recently published and offered a different perspective on AI and enterprise data based on what my client was hearing. He replied almost immediately. His first interview question: “I want to know what you’re hearing from your clients…” Reporters want what they can’t access – internal AI strategies, challenges, successes and solutions. 

Attend events to build relationships: The upcoming Collision conference will be well attended by top-tier and trade media. This includes podcast hosts and newsletter curators. We’ve found reporters can sometimes be friendlier in person than over email. Even if you pitch them in advance of the event and get ignored, they likely won’t turn down a friendly introduction when you’re both on the ground. These meetings can go a long way to build name recognition in their inboxes later.

Pitch broadcast and live streams ahead of events: Last year, I pitched Bloomberg TV ahead of OpenAI’s developer conference. I was skeptical. But Bloomberg replied and wanted my client on TV a few days later. It’s not unheard of that TV sources pull out at the last minute, sending broadcast bookers in a search of experts at the 11th hour. Some reporters also livestream events, opening chances to get featured in their video and audio clips that tend to generate high audience engagement.

Understand how regional AI reporters vibe: It’s hard to break into the already full address books of Silicon Valley reporters. Meanwhile, Washington DC-based reporters typically like to meet sources for coffee. In New York, we’ve noticed reporters sometimes say yes to after-work drinks yet they’re not as responsive to invites for media tours, roundtables and media breakfasts. 

Untapped AI stories lie in sectors that subject matter experts live and breathe each day. This might come in the form of predictions, advice, proprietary data, analysis and interesting use cases that demonstrate widespread impact. A growing subcategory of reporters are also experimenting with AI in their own newsrooms which can open unlikely doors for meetings to thought partner with them on cybersecurity, data privacy and copyrights.

And finally, remember that not every pitch has to be about AI. When tech reporter Emilia David, joined us last year on Cogcast, Cognito’s podcast, she asked, “Does every company need to do a GenAI play?” What happened with non-AI stories? Remember machine learning, robotic process automation, Web3, even Blockchain? White space exists beyond AI pitches and tech reporters are eager for them.  

Vanja Lakic is an account director in New York