Originally posted at Forbes.
He’s a rabid drum-and-bass junkie, a father of two and soon-to-be husband, and a PR pitch coach who prefers being called a “blogger,” not a “journalist.” He’s also a lover of brilliant marketing, beautiful media and semantic search. He’s a relatively new resident of Nashville, Tennessee, to which he moved at the outset of 2009 for a nursing job. Before that, he worked in marketing and remains enthralled by the power of words — a power he counts himself lucky to deploy daily as U.S. Editor of The Next Web.
Brad McCarty is an engaging and multi-faceted human being who I enjoyed the pleasure of chatting with recently about the worst pitches he’s ever received, what it’s like to blog on technology from Tennessee, and how his kids are struggling to wrap their heads around the fact that what Daddy does for work and pleasure are identical.
Jesse Thomas: How long have you written on technology, and specifically at The Next Web?
Brad McCarty: Fortunately, the answer to both of these questions is the same. I started writing for TNW on a part-time basis on April 1st of 2010. Previous to that, the only writing that I had done was for my own pleasure or when I was pursuing an English degree in college.
I look at the date somewhat tongue-in-cheek, given that it fell on April Fool’s Day. To me, it’s a practical joke that my boss played on the world of the Internet that he’s set me loose with a keyboard.
Jesse: How did you transition to blogging from marketing?
Brad: I had worked in radio, both in full and part-time on-air capacities, for years. What I found was that I really cared about creating great advertising and marketing for these businesses who were telling amazing stories. As time went on, I transitioned into a nursing career but I never let go of marketing. It was always present, for me, as a passion that I occasionally got to use in order to help businesses.
When I moved to Nashville in January of 2009, I did so for a nursing job. Due to some changes in state government funding, I was laid off and I started writing for The Next Web simply because I loved technology and I had a lot of spare time on my hands.
What I found was that, in focusing on the incredible stories that startups have and writing about them, I was still in a position where I could help them to market themselves. While I do write about things other than startups, that’s my primary focus and it’s where I love spending the majority of my time because I get to focus on my passion for both startups and marketing.
Jesse: What has one of your favorite scoops at TNW been?
Brad: I have had the privilege of seeing the inside of the TechStars “bunker” in Boulder, Colorado. It’s something that TechStars has never allowed a blogger or journalist to do in the past. To this point, sitting in with that class of startups, seeing what they do and getting to write about how TechStars works from that point of view has been my absolute favorite story. Not only because I believe very strongly in what TechStars is doing for the entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also because it has opened so many doors to develop working relationships with many of the startups that come through the network.
Brad: There’s always a friendly rivalry between technology sites. I think that TNW’s keen interest in telling the stories instead of simply reporting the news has set us apart. We have a profound love for Internet culture and the people that make it up. People who want to tell those stories will naturally flow our direction.
Jesse: How does writing from Nashville, rather than one of the coasts, impact your work as a technology blogger?
Brad: It’s both good and bad. In many respects, living in Nashville is challenging because I’m not necessarily able to be in the heart of what’s going on in technology. However, there are some distinct advantages, too.
First, I have an incredibly high quality of life here, versus what I would be able to have for the same salary elsewhere. With a soon-to-be wife and two kids, that’s vitally important to me. Also, since I’m removed from the various technology bubbles, I can often times have a different perspective about what’s going on inside of them. It’s very easy to get blinded when you live in a virtually utopian society for any one thing. When you’re on the outside, looking in, it’s much easier to see things as the rest of the world will see them.
Jesse: What do your neighbors, local friends or folks you meet around town think of your work as a technology reporter?
Brad: Nobody really knows what to think of what I do. The most common response that I get is just a smile and a nod, where you know that they don’t really understand the purpose behind what you’ve just told them. Fortunately, my local friends are young and of the Internet generation. They are more accepting, even if they don’t always understand exactly what it is that I do.
My kids are probably the funniest ones. At ages 6 and 8, their understanding of the Internet is growing exponentially every day. They still don’t quite understand the thought that what I do for pleasure looks identical to what I do for work.
Jesse: What are your least favorite types of stories to write?
Brad: I dislike writing anything that could be potentially damaging. I do what I do because I have a passion for technology and the people within it. Sometimes, though, stories have to be told because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes, even doing the right thing, you’re going to hurt someone. That’s a really difficult thing for me to deal with because I have a hard time separating the actions of a company from the people within it.
Jesse: On your personal website, you list “Brilliant Marketing” as one of your interests. What are some recent examples of brilliant marketing that’ve caught your eye?
Brad: I’m really fascinated, right now, with companies that advertise things that consumers can’t go out and buy. These companies, such as Aflac for insurance, are building brand value and making the consumer work for them. It’s a unique challenge that’s faced by many different companies that offer benefits to the consumer, but aren’t necessarily consumer-facing.
I had a talk with Leith Stevens, the CEO of a company called flextrip. flextrip works with travel agencies to help book activities during vacations. In short, they’re a service that customers can’t necessarily buy themselves, but it’s something that they would want their travel agency to have available. How flextrip chooses to market itself will be very interesting, and I think that this indirect value building could be very effective for them.
Jesse: You also do some pitch coaching, and certainly see quite a few pitches in a day. What are some recent examples of terrible and/or great pitches you’ve encountered?
Brad: The greatest pitches, without a doubt, are the simple ones. A company called Baydin Software immediately comes to mind. They sent me an email that said that they had a product called Boomerang. It would let me not only send email whenever I wanted to, but I could receive it on my own schedule too. To me, that was groundbreaking. It was a two-sentence pitch, with an attached document full of details and Baydin is one of my favorite companies to work with, even to this day.
The worst ones? Those fall into two categories. Either they’re the pitches sent to “Dear potential media contact” (or something equally as generic and thoughtless) or they’re the gigantic walls of text. What’s especially painful about bad pitches is that I know someone is getting paid a relatively handsome sum of money in order to send those. I see terrible pitches from PR companies all the time and yet many of the best ones come direct from the people who are building the product. If there’s a take-away from this fact, it’s that I’m just a person and I want to be talked to like a person. Toss me something full of double-talk and PR language and it will be immediately released … to the trash.