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    Coffee with a Journalist: Steffi Cao, Forbes

    Steffi Cao is a staff writer at Forbes where she covers the creator economy and internet culture. Steffi previously reported at Buzzfeed News, Teen Vogue, Bustle, MTV News, and The Washington Post, among others.

    During the episode, Steffi talks about her focus on the creator economy beat, what good pitches look like to her, why she rarely writes about pitches from PR agencies, and more.


    Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


    Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:




    CWJ View Transcription CTA



    New Role of "Creator Economy Reporter"


    [0:01:31] BB: Great. Wonderful. Wonderful. Okay. First, I've had tons of people here who say
    like, "Hey, here's what my outlet's about." But I think we know a lot about Forbes. But how would
    you describe what creator economy encompasses, especially since you're the first person there
    to hold that title or that full beat?

    [0:01:51] SC: Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely an honor. I'm very excited to see where this desk
    goes. But I'm very excited for this desk. At least at Forbes, it will be really focused on who is
    making money online and what interesting things are happening across the internet that are
    building out business for young people across the world or not young people as well. I'm very, very

    excited to dig into interesting things happening in the tech world. But ultimately, it
    comes down to influencers and people who are getting big on these tech platforms and the
    interesting ventures they're taking on. Yeah, that's what I envisioned for this.

    [0:02:29] BB: Yeah. And expand a little bit further. You said people making money online. Like

    [0:02:34] SC: I'm really interested, for instance, in Twitch streamers. I know we talk about
    YouTubers, TikTokers. But I'd also love to dig into the fun things with like VTubing, these
    hologram gamers and people who are getting really big on Douyin on the Chinese and things.
    I'm very, very fascinated by the trends that are moving from Douyin over to TikTok and how
    those things are translating. And the people who are branching off from YouTube to do coffee
    companies, and beverage companies, and clothing lines, and tours and podcasts. All these
    different things. And the way that the creator economy has progressed so much over the past few years,

    there's definitely so many interesting stories to dig into.

    [0:03:16] BB: God. I wonder, too, how big that is from a macro-economic type of thing. You
    might actually know that. Does the federal government now track this in terms of taxes and
    size? It's diddly squat, I'm sure, compared to other big things like health care workers. But is
    there something like even more macro-y that's now being tracked?

    [0:03:38] SC: I actually don't know.

    [0:03:42] BB: Yeah. I was like, "I don't think so."

    [0:03:44] SC: I mean, that would be an interesting story.

    [0:03:45] BB: It would be. Now I got to look. Yeah.

    [0:03:48] SC: It's definitely a very unregulated industry because it is so new and expanding so
    fast. And most of it is pretty much based on like how a talent industry would work. Different from
    modeling or from acting, that sort of thing. It is largely freelance contract, which means there's a
    lot of room for both interesting deals and very interesting ways people are going about
    managing their business.



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    Pitching with Narrative vs. Pitching with Data


    [0:10:04] BB: Now you gave us a good one. You have an alternative or other things you don't
    like in subject lines? Let's talk.

    [0:10:11] SC: I do. I do. I don't like when PR people pitch me a story. That's my one big pet
    peeve I will just instantly not like.

    [0:10:21] BB: Hey, what do you mean though? Pitch you a story? That's the whole point, right?
    Do elaborate. Do elaborate.

    [0:10:28] SC: Okay. This is my relationship with PR. I feel like when I get emails, I think I'm
    looking for a lead. Because story-wise, I know what stories I want to write.

    [0:10:38] BB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

    [0:10:38] SC: [inaudible 0:10:38] stories from my editor. And so, I think it can – at least to me,
    the way I was trained as a journalist is like any story that should come from a journalistic
    standpoint rather than working with an agency or a company who offers the story idea. Not
    to say that I don't think people in PR don't have good story ideas. I think they do. But just
    professionally, I think it's like I need to keep – I know what stories I want to write.

    And so, when I'm looking at emails, I'm looking for something that will give me a source, some
    data. Someone that connects me to someone in the creator economy. Those are the things I'm
    looking for rather than the straight-up story itself. Because for me, it's like I already know what I
    need to do. When the subject line is, "Here's the story idea," that's an instant pet peeve for me, I
    will say.

    [0:11:24] BB: Got it. Interesting. You don't want a played-up story. You want, oh, an expert.
    Some data. Some things that could then tie into a narrative, a story, or maybe even something
    you're exploring.

    [0:11:38] SC: Absolutely. Yeah. I already know usually what stories I want to work on. And so,
    when I'm looking through – the ones I'm going to click on first are things that are like new study
    shows X about Instagram lifestyle influencers or something like that. That's something that is
    like immediately I know will be useful to me in my reporting.



    Rapid Fire Pitching Preferences


    [0:17:59] BB: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Okay. This is helpful. Okay, Steffi, we have a
    quick-fire Q&A portion. Are you ready?

    [0:18:08] SC: I'm so ready.

    [0:18:10] BB: Let's see what we get here. Video or phone interviews?

    [0:18:13] SC: Video – in-person above anything.

    [0:18:14] BB: In-person. Wow. I think that's the first answer for someone on that. Okay, in-

    [0:18:20] SC: As much contact as possible.

    [0:18:22] BB: By the way, where is the best place to take you to coffee in your opinion? Oh, do
    you have a top three? Like, Blue Bottle for me. Hands down.

    [0:18:32] SC: Oh, Blue Bottle is great. That's a very West Coast answer.

    [0:18:34] BB: Mm-hmm. I know. But it is of us. Okay. Go ahead.

    [0:18:39] SC: At least New York Devoción.

    [0:18:40] BB: Okay.

    [0:18:41] SC: Yeah.

    [0:18:42] BB: Okay. There you go. Now everyone knows where to take you. Now you'll know,
    by the way, Steffi if an ask comes in. You'll know it was from here. Okay, bullet points or

    [0:18:53] SC: Oh, bullet points. I know my job is words. But sometimes there's too many words.

    [0:18:58] BB: Yes. Short or long pitches? It probably answers that.

    [0:19:02] SC: Short.

    [0:19:03] BB: Yes. Images attached or Dropbox zip file?

    [0:19:06] SC: Images attached.

    [0:19:08] BB: Okay. One follow-up or multiple?

    [0:19:11] SC: Ooh. One.

    [0:19:13] BB: One. One and done.

    [0:19:14] SC: The thing is there's so many that I feel like the less I need to click on, the better
    for me.

    [0:19:18] BB: Yeah, the better. The better. Yeah. Email or Twitter DM?

    [0:19:24] SC: Email. Oh, I get too many DMs.

    [0:19:27] BB: Yeah. And then it's like another place. Everyone's always been emailed. Okay.
    Direct or creative subject lines? You said funny previously.

    [0:19:35] SC: Yeah, I like a creative one. But it's not like I'm opposed to a direct. Because as we
    saw today, I do like a direct subject line.

    [0:19:42] BB: Okay. Yeah. Yeah.

    [0:19:43] SC: But as a person, I find the funny one's just very funny.

    [0:19:46] BB: There you go. Press release or media kit?

    [0:19:50] SC: Media kit? Actually, let me walk that one back. Press release.

    [0:19:53] BB: Okay. Okay. And why is that?

    [0:19:56] SC: The work I do isn't very focused on needing to download images. Press release
    [inaudible 0:20:00] for me.

    [0:20:00] BB: Yeah, it's true. "Time you read pitches?"

    [0:20:05] SC: 9am.

    [0:20:06] BB: Is it a morning? 9am. Okay. Your 30 minutes?

    [0:20:08] SC: Yes.

    [0:20:08] BB: Okay. 9am. Sources you love?

    [0:20:12] SC: Sources I love. I love an app founder. I love someone who's done a partnership.
    Big creators in a partnership with a brand. I love people who have had interesting experiences
    on, say, a Hinge or a Tinder. Yeah, I think that's it. I'm sure for Forbes, it's more business-y.
    Definitely more CEOs, founders, new creators. That type of thing.




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