Editor’s note: This blog post and interview are part of Bospar’s Media Mouth series, which provides industry insights from some of today’s top tech journalists and writers.
Charlene O’Hanlon is chief content officer at Techstrong Group. She has extensive experience in writing, editing and content management for print and online business-to-business media. Her specialties include technology writing and editing; technology in education; K-12 and higher education issues; general interest writing and blogging; and journalistic content development.
What do you look for in the stories you cover?
Our sites are focused on providing thought leadership; as such, articles that offer insight and expertise in particular areas of technology are always welcome. Our audience is made up mostly of practitioners, and they are hungry to learn about and understand what’s relevant today and what will impact the industry and their profession in the future.
In addition to our three websites (DevOps.com, Container Journal and Security Boulevard), we produce a regular streaming broadcast, Techstrong TV, which features interviews, panel discussions, podcasts, and other segments related to IT. In the nearly two years since it launched, Techstrong TV has become known among industry leaders as a go-to resource for news and information about all things IT, from application development to cybersecurity and the rigors of remote work. It has won numerous awards, including multiple platinum and gold dotCOMM awards and gold HERMES awards. The success of Techstrong TV demonstrates its value to our audience.
What are some key elements for a good story?
The best articles on our sites are those that generate conversation. Sometimes the most esoteric topics can generate the most interest; for example, one of the most-read stories on DevOps.com is about the COBOL programming language, a language that many consider dead, for all intents and purposes. Judging from the number of hits the story continues to generate, however, it’s clear our readers still see there is a lot of life left in COBOL.
Regardless of the topic, however, the best stories are well-written, informative and easy to follow, and they address our core audience of IT practitioners.
On Techstrong TV, I tend to look for stories that I find compelling to a wide range of viewers—I figure if I’m interested in the topic, others will be as well.
How do you break down complicated topics into compelling stories?
I freely admit that I am not a practitioner, so I set the bar low—if I can easily follow along with the narrative, I consider the article to have achieved its objective. But because the content sometimes can be dry, visuals such as code snippets and screen shots certainly help “pump up” the article and make it more palatable.
Interviews on Techstrong TV are with those who are involved in the technology and can speak from a first-person point of view, which makes for a much more personal—and personable—dialogue. That, combined with our conversational interview style, draws our audience in and keeps them engaged throughout.
What are the current challenges you face in this media landscape?
Readers and viewers have so many options to ingest information, which sometimes makes it difficult to make ourselves heard or seen. The “fight for eyeballs” is a daily challenge and one that can be tough to crack. We’re constantly looking for ways to ensure we are providing the content that will be of most value to our audience.
What are some of the worst pitch practices you have seen?
Pitches that obviously have no relevance to our audience and feel spammy are, unfortunately, a regular occurrence, as are pitches that are long and drawn out. With the amount of email I receive daily, it’s best to keep messages short and relevant.