Q&A with Tarmo Virki, Co-founder Magazine
Our resident storyteller and SF Academy course instructor John Cozzi sat down with Tarmo Virki from Co-Founder Magazine to chat a little about journalism and some of the best practices for organizations to get their story in the media.
I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about your background and what brought you to where you are today?
I have been in journalism since my twenties, so that’s more than 20 years now. I worked as a newspaper journalist for many years. I had my first cover story in a national daily newspaper in November 1996. Then I spent 12 years in newswire journalism, a couple of years in a small agency, almost ten running the Reuters Helsinki Bureau, and the European Technology Beat after that, followed by a few “smaller gigs,” and launched CoFounder Magazine four years ago.
Can you tell me a little bit about what your daily life looks like now at the editorial department at CoFounder?
CoFounder is a quarterly magazine, so how hectic the job is depends on the time of year. When the issue is out, and you spend more time traveling to the trade conferences, talking to startups on the road, speaking on stages, and handing out magazines to the readers is much more fun! The few weeks before going to print is just way too hectic.
What works for you when it comes to sourcing the stories that you want for your readers?
With CoFounder, the editorial decisions to what stories should/shouldn’t be run are 95% made quite a long time before the magazine is actually printed. I think with the 24/7 publications online, the editorial calendars are much more flexible to the general newsflow. If a startup says “I’m going to raise/announce 100 million next week,” I think, “let’s sit down after the deal is unveiled and maybe we should do something for the following issue.”
What does a good pitch look like for you now at Co-Founder Magazine compared to when you were working in a 24/7 constant newsflow?
I’m really interested in the intriguing stories on the back of a startup. If the pitch is somehow interesting, I try to find if there’s a story behind it before I sit down and spend my time with the company, online or offline. For some of the companies, that’s the difficult part. For CoFounder, I want to hear their founding story. I want to hear and see something real in that founding story, so they’re not just a hiring app that works slightly better than the previous hiring app, or if someone is doing an accounting app, I just can’t get excited about an accounting app. There must be something really intriguing in the story for the magazine to cover it.
The difference between the magazine and online pitching is that when you’re an online journalist, you usually care about the news. You care about being either the first or among the first. The worst pitches to online journalists are the ones that start “we published yesterday.” No one reads beyond that. It makes no sense whatsoever. The power of exclusivity is quite good for the online journalists. Some say they demand it, but if you have big news to share, then you shouldn’t care about these kinds of demands. If it’s something that isn’t very big news, then it could make sense to reach a bigger audience through a bigger channel by giving exclusivity. I think that’s good.
Giving enough time is the other thing. Something else might have happened which is in this journalist’s beat, so they might have no time, even if you tell them two hours before that you’re going to publish something massive. Let’s say that the country’s economy has collapsed or whatever the unforeseen circumstances is, then the journalist might put it on the backburner and might cover it in two weeks if they have time. Enough time and exclusivity are probably the two key things.
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