There was a good illustration recently of why it’s so important to think carefully about the subject line when pitching to journalists by email. It arose at a recent breakfast briefing organised by media information firm Gorkana with The Independent on Sunday’s Julian Knight. Knight edits the newspaper’s money and property section. He’s got ten pages to fill each Sunday on his own, so it quickly becomes apparent that his week is a constant stream of commissioning, writing and editing – all done to fit in with a conveyor belt of various deadlines.
At the same time he’s got to keep an eye on his emails, all 3,000 of them each week. Assuming he receives roughly 40 emails on his screen, that’s 75 pages in all. Gorkana reckons it would take about three minutes to flick through a page of emails, opening them up and deciding whether to keep them or not. On that basis, Knight could spend nearly four hours a week going through his emails and that’s before he’s read any through, opened attachments or chosen to reply.
You can see why so many judgements are made on those few words within the subject line, and why it’s vital to spend time thinking about them when pitching stories to busy newspaper journalists.