Expert: Tom Foremski, SiliconValleyWatcher

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About the Expert

Tom Foremski is publisher of SiliconValleyWatcher, a blog that reports on the business and culture of Silicon Valley. A 20 + year veteran of news reporting and a Silicon Valley columnist for the Financial Times, in May 2004 he became the first journalist from a leading newspaper to resign and become a full-time blogger. Within months of its initial post, Silicon Valley Watcher was named by Bacon’s, the top media-tracking group, as one of the most influential and credible blogs in the US. In addition to contributing stories, Tom speaks to tech companies, PR firms, and corporate communications teams, and at conferences on the subject of blogging and the enterprise. Chitika believes Tom is a pioneer in this unique but growing industry. For the journalist and aspiring journalist bloggers out there, we are excited to have Tom lend his expertise and insights in getting the scoop in business news.

Getting a scoop in the news business is extremely difficult and extremely desirable. If I have a scoop I have news that is completely unique, nobody else has it, and that creates a distinction that very few others can match. In the increasingly crowded online space you need exclusive content to distinguish yourself and rise above the white noise.

Here are some of the benefits in going after scoops:

•A scoop is one of the best ways of building readership. People will want to come back again and again to see if you have anything new that nobody else has.

•Scoops are a type of exclusive content and exclusive content builds on itself. Journalists or bloggers who have developed a reputation for scoops become magnets for exclusive content.

•Companies and individuals with news to release will often release it exclusively to that person or organization with a reputation for exclusive content because it becomes a highly effective distribution platform. You can see that happen with sites such as the Drudge Report, and in sectors such as Web 2.0 where Mike Arrington from TechCrunch will often have exclusive content because companies release it to him first, knowing that he has the reach and readership to distribute their news. But being pre-briefed by a company on their news is not the same as a scoop. A scoop is news information that has been gained by hard work and through experience.

So how do you get a scoop? And how do you continue getting scoops? The answer is in knowing your subject matter. If you write about the medical industry then:

•You know the companies.

•You know the individuals.

•You have established relationships with people in that industry.

•You are known by people in that industry.

•You have established trust in that community.

•You spend time in the industry and understand the dynamics of that industry.

•You talk to people in the industry on a regular basis.

Scoops are found by:

•Following leads or tips from contacts.

•By noticing something that others haven’t noticed in public information.

•By following a unique angle in news stories.

•By trading exclusive information with your contacts.

•Sometimes a contact has information that they don’t know is a scoop. That’s why you have to know your subject matter extremely well. Sometimes you will be told information that makes a great scoop but could get your contact into big trouble, they could lose their job. Or they will never speak with you again. You need to be careful in those situations because if you “burn” your contact you will lose the opportunity to gain future scoops from that person. But sometimes, the scoop is so important, or so huge that you may have no choice but to burn your contact. In the newspaper world, when someone is talking with a journalist, everything is on the record unless agreed otherwise. Everyone knows the rules of the conversation and knows the consequences. But in the “blogosphere” the rules are much grayer and the consequences of saying the wrong thing are less well understood. So the blogger has to be aware of this and act in a fair and proper manner with their contacts.