Interviewees, outlets sought for PR pitch June 21, 2024 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Bella Donna has volunteered to make a publicity pitch about MetaFilter!

We have a confluence of a few things:
* the site's 25th anniversary in July,
* the transition-in-process to a nonprofit, and
* the start to rebuild the site.

To help toward any outlets picking up MeFi’s latest story, Bella Donna is asking for two things:
* volunteers who are willing to be interviewed, and
* ideas on outlets, websites, publishers, etc., to pitch to.

Thanks, Bella Donna!
posted by NotLost to MetaFilter-Related at 12:24 PM (37 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

This is great! Thank you so much, NotLost and Bella Donna! Please count with me in any capacity you think I can help (as mod, staff, member).
posted by loup (staff) at 12:26 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

I am, of course, happy to talk about any of this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:44 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

This is going far beyond the pitch and I am qualified neither by my skills nor by my centrality to the site or its history to participate but...

As I was reading this I was imaging that Jessamyn and Mathowie should speak about the site, but of course it's not Jessamyn's job anymore and it's WAY not Mathowie's job anymore...but then I realized what i was picturing when I was thinking that was less about someone talking to a journalist for an article or doing the rounds of podcasts or interview shows, what I was picturing in my head was single series of interviews for a documentary.

I think that should be the Metafilter 25 project. A documentary about the history of Metafilter. I have no experience with film making, fundraising, or anything else, but I would contribute to this kickstarter, and then I would go watch it at TIFF.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:05 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]

I wonder if the Slate Culture podcast people might bite on an interview with someone who has been involved with and/or currently owns the site. I don't listen so I'm not sure what they talk about these days, but it might be a fit.
posted by kensington314 at 2:15 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]

Guardian, New Statesman… if folks are comfortable I’m happy to share contacts privately to volunteers, but not in a public thread.

Audio would be amazing for this, too. It would work on This American Life and similar style shows.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 3:00 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

New_ Public ( has a newsletter. The organization is composed of “researchers, engineers, designers, and community leaders working together to explore creating digital public spaces where people can thrive and connect.”
posted by NotLost at 4:15 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

Annalee Newitz, currently at the New Republic, seems like the sort of journalist who would be interested in this sort of thing. I don't have specific contacts, but the smoking craters which are the remains of serious tech journalism (ie, Ars Technica, The Verge, 404 Media) seem like likely outlets. I think an anti-AI/algorithm angle would be an effective pitch, possibly for tech-skeptic figures like Jaron Lanier (who just had a piece in the New Yorker last March).

Personally, I don't have specific or extensive expertise about the site, especially compared to current and former owners and mods, but I have here for a while and would be fine with being interviewed.
posted by whir at 7:59 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]

*I have been here
posted by whir at 8:08 PM on June 21

I was slightly inspired by the documentary idea suggested above by If only I had a penguin... .

I wasn't inspired enough to do any actual work, just enough to ask ChatGPT about it: 1. Who would be good pitchees? and 2. How would such a pitch differ from a regular PR pitch?

It seems AI answers might be frowned on leaving on MeFI, but they were helpful. I learned that a doc pitch generally seems to be more work. I think the idea has potential for a pitch, but it might call for more help.
posted by NotLost at 8:47 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

As I have said before, I know nothing about film-making or fund-raising or anything of any-relevance at all. Yet, I am fairly certain that a documentary would not involve a pitch, it would involve either a mefite who is a documentarian choosing to make a documentary or the metafilter community (or board) raising money and hiring a documentarian. I feel like it's too big a project to somehow try to talk to someone into taking on if they're not already so inclined.

Oh, and speaking of it being too big a project, I had been thinking it over more and I think it could actually be a limited series of 3-5 episodes not just a single movie. Not sure if that rules out TIFF or how that works.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:38 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]

Thank you, Bella Donna.

Pitch ideas:

1) Many MeFites are librarians or archivists, current or former or retired. American Libraries is a venue that might be interested on the strength of that alone, to say nothing of the reference-interview-adjacent aspects of Ask, but note that they claim copyright for articles they publish. The circulation is substantial, and this would have the potential knock-on effect of informing new & young librarians of the existence of the site, as well as reminding long-timers. (I had a conversation with a colleague a couple years ago that was literally that -- I mentioned Ask for book recs, and she said "oh, yeah, MetaFilter!")

2) Individual blogs, featuring guest posts. Many MeFites have high-traffic blogs and websites, so I don't want to make specific suggestions, but you can probably imagine the possibilities.

3) This is so blindingly obvious that many will laugh, but all the internet culture-type sites/pubs: Vulture, huck, Wired, etc. I would think Wired would be an especially good get.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:34 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]

I leave the specifics to Bella Donna's capable hands, but I am curious about the angle. My brain went to an article about MetaFilter's Quarter-Life Crisis and different perspectives on how you keep a community growing, but that's because that's the article I would want to read.

I don't think anyone is interested in an interview with me about MeFi but I'm happy to be on the list if having a specific number would help. I think the best list would be the cool kids, and hope they are being reached out to.

I hope someone has a good PR account they can pull a list from but here are a few ideas. This is the part it's hard to have time for. Some of these are clearly aspirational.

Aja Romano
Taylor Lorenz (ha ha but why not)
Amelia Tate
Yancey Strickler
Echoing the folks at The Verge
"Garbage Day is for folks that remember growing up in the west wild of AIM and Kazaa and message boards and know that, even though it’s probably politically destabilized most of the planet, the internet can still good and fun."
posted by warriorqueen at 6:54 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]

Thanks Bella Donna!

On top of it being the 25th anniversary overall, this year was also the 10th anniversary of FanFare.

As far as angle, the no-hate, no-algorithm, no-billionaire, non-corporate, not-beholden-to-shareholders, not-selling-everyone's-input-to-AI aspects are worth talking about, I think. The incredible comprehensiveness of AskMe. And "in an age of quick video and character limits, there's one social media site where paragraphs rule"...
posted by trig at 7:08 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]

Oh, and I definitely like the idea of pitching to niche audiences like librarians.
posted by trig at 7:08 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

I'd add Anne Helen Peterson (who has done some great work writing about librarians, and academics and the Internet, from her years at Buzzfeed to her current Substack) to the pitch list. She's very GenX but her audience has a wide variation in age so I think it really hits a MetaFilter potential newcomer sweet spot.

I would recommend that whoever pitches what carefully explain that this is a community with a lot of norms and history (a double-edged sword that's landed more on the cutting side recently), so any potential newcomers aren't terribly surprised.

I'm also happy to volunteer if anyone wants to go down the librarian path for PR (obviously Jessamyn is the best choice there, but if you need someone to round it out).
posted by librarylis at 12:00 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]

This is a cool idea and I would be willing to help Bella Donna in any capacity she deems appropriate. She knows how to find me.
posted by St. Oops at 1:00 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]

I turned to AskMe during an exceptionally difficult life situation some years back. The responses I received have a direct bearing on my happy, thriving, 6 year old child being part of my life today. I would be more than happy to share that story for a chance of giving something back to the community.
posted by protorp at 1:37 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]

The London Review of Books has a little cluster of former MeFites who write regularly for the magazine, so it might be worth testing the waters there, though I wouldn’t have the first idea how to pitch something to them.

And Jenny Diski, who’s one of the more important MeFites in terms of changing site culture back in the day, was a frequent contributor before she passed away, and wrote a short essay about MetaFilter.
posted by Kattullus at 3:37 PM on June 22 [7 favorites]

I'm just some regular guy, but I have some good stories about me experience here, and I was someone who pushed for this, so I'd be happy to be interviewed.
posted by vrakatar at 6:29 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]

The folks at Lawyers, Guns & Money have an ongoing podcast/post series about 2000s-era blogging (an Oral History of the Blogosphere.) Given the connections between blogs and discussion sites (MeFi, Plastic, Kuro5hin, etc.), I could see an episode about MeFi potentially fitting in.

(I have zero relevant connections and don't even post there, but it's one of the few projects that came to mind with an explicit focus on the same early-internet era that also spawned MeFi, so hey.)
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 10:26 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]

I didn't think of this when I wrote the original post. But any reporters who want interviews will need contact information for any interviewees.

So, if you're volunteering to be interviewed, please send Bella Donna any of the following that you are comfortable with:
* E-mail address
* Phone number
* Country or time zone
* Real name

posted by NotLost at 11:23 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]

(Mods, is there some glitch in the Metafilter clock or are my devices in some sort of time warp? My comments are off by like 25 minutes. Please delete this comment when resolved.)

(This happened to me last week too. It's fun because it disables comment editing! You should probably contact the mods if it continues since they're probably not following this thread...)
posted by trig at 11:35 PM on June 22

(... and it's happening again to me too :-)
posted by trig at 11:36 PM on June 22

Frimble is aware, and I believe this is fixed now! Edit: Okay wrong! Frimble is aware, and this will soon be fixed! :)
posted by taz (staff) at 12:06 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]

Thanks taz! (edit: It's fixed!)
posted by trig at 4:28 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]

What an excellent idea and I hope Bella Donna's inbox if overflowing with volunteers already!
posted by dg at 8:42 PM on June 23

I think another great angle for an article might be the usefulness and standout moments of AskMetafilter, highlighting...

- Utilitarian problem solving,
- Excellent gift and travel and book suggestions,
- Paradigm-shifting essay comments over the years - my personal faves are - Ask/Guess Culture, How to Find Your Passion, What A Wartime Seige Is Like, Why I'm Scared of Random Men, Ding Training, How To Dispose Of A Body, How To Become Flock Leader...
- Magical How Did Anyone Know That?! moments like when someone saw a photo of a waffle and correctly identified which restaurant it was from in like 15 minutes, or the time someone showed a weird doodle their dad used to do that was "a drawing of a guy" and someone else found the cartoon drawing the dad had learned to copy (incorrectly) as a child in the 1950s,
- Emergency Threads like the cat that escaped the car on a road trip and got lost in the mountains, and Mefites helped the owner get it back.

AskMe is an absolute standout part of the site, and I think could really attract new members!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:14 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]

I love AskMe, but I think those of us who frequent MetaFilter underestimate how amazing the community is at finding interesting links and presenting it in an interesting package. As Google becomes ever worse at surfacing interesting content, and links to outside sites have become de-emphasized in the newsfeed by Facebook and X, the Blue has become ever more useful as a place to find interesting reading and watching on the web. This will only become ever more important, as we have to suffer through a flood of AI-generated slop, which will be optimized for the AI-enabled social media algorithms and search engines.

Only humans understand what’s interesting to their fellow humans.
posted by Kattullus at 6:28 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]

Re: ideas on outlets, websites, publishers, etc., to pitch to

I don't have specific outlets, etc., but I can share why I continue to visit this site, and perhaps those reasons could help pinpoint ideal pitch targets.

1. Metafilter is free to use AND free of ads. Pretty much unheard of nowadays. (OK, $5 to create an account and post to the site, but...come on)
2. If I want help with a quandry on basically any topic, I can easily go to and ask. With sites such as reddit, there is the restriction of first finding the correct subreddit, following the specific rules that might be enforced by a mod, and of course, risking the wrath of those in the subreddit for not asking the question 'correctly.'
3. People on this site do not act like a-holes.
posted by BeBoth at 8:54 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]

Another nice angle - as much as I find there is sometimes intolerable kyrarchy stuff enacted on this site - I also have to acknowledge that every other public part of the open internet is WAY more bigoted and hostile. And at least in Metafilter sub-sites, if you call out that something inequitable happened, the response will still be fairly civil, several people will usually join in to help support that POV, and the risk of getting doxxed or trolled is MUCH smaller than elsewhere.

Like the emotional labour / MeToo threads went QUITE WELL here, compared to the way those threads went in other online spaces! Women shared and felt heard and validated, men mostly shut up and learned, and we developed a shorthand that changed site norms. Pretty good win for this many strangers!

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Metafilter is one of the most gender-equal, sexuality-ok, and less-racist public forums on the whole internet. Certainly it's worlds less socially violent than similar convos would become on Reddit, public Instagram threads, YouTube comments, etc.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:50 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]

Many thanks to NotLost, everyone who has commented here, and the three folks who sent MeMail volunteering to be contacted. (Amusingly, no one from the US has contacted me directly.) Also, truly appreciate the suggested outlets.

1. Tomorrow, I will MeMail individuals in this thread who expressed willingness to speak to a journalist/blogger/whomever and have not contacted me directly to see if they are still interested.

2. I also need to reach out the the volunteer board ... or someone ... to find out what statistics may exist about users that we might (or might not) want to share publicly.

3.I will also send an update about A. The potential hazards of seeking press coverage, B. the potential benefits as I see them, and C. the potential dangers of speaking to a journalist.

As a former journalist who once said stupid stupid things to a working journalist on the record, this is just going to be me explaining how I screwed up and asking volunteers to not be me if they are interviewed.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:57 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]

Hi, another pitch idea might be Defector, who despite being nominally a sports site do a great job covering the changes in journalism, our current media hellscape, and politics. They are owned by the writers. Here's their How to Pitch link.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:59 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much, Lawn Beaver! That is super helpful. To bring everyone up to date:

1. I have been in touch with the volunteers willing to speak to one or more reporters. Many thanks to those who are willing to do this.

Here is part of what I wrote them:
I cannot promise that a journalist will contact you. If a journalist contacts you, I cannot promise that any part of the interview will be used publicly if an article gets written. But I can promise you that you are providing a wonderful service to the community and to the journalist. Even if what you say isn't used directly, it will absolutely help the journalist to understand MF much better.

2. I have sent a pitch to someone at Wired who is uniquely qualified, in my humble opinion, to interview Jessamyn or cover MetaFilter in some other way. There is no telling if they will be interested.

3. Started compiling a list of specific writers at specific outlets who seem to have a similar or overlapping beat to online communities, culture, etc.

4. Still need to reach out for statistics, etc.

As promised from yesterday:

A. The potential hazards of getting media coverage include one or more negative articles ("Once celebrated MetaFilter is going down the tubes, yadda yadda"). We have zero control over the content of an article, and that is how it should be. It may also bring more attention from the haters who periodically shit on us. Ehh, whatever. But that could happen again.

B. We want more visibility and this is one of the risks that come with seeking more visibility. I happen to think it is worth the risk to try to get the MetaFilter name and link out in the world on the regular. It's like the current LinkFilter project. The first several times someone hears about a site, they may not check it out. Repetition can help drive new visitors, some of whom may stick around.

It does suggest we should think about other ways to try to promote the blue in addition to seeking media coverage. For example, several Substack communities have thriving commenting members. Recently several MeFites recommended MetaFilter as part of a discussion of good online communities. That was nice to see.

C. One danger of speaking to a reporter is a source getting doxxed by an established hater or newer assholes. That is why I strongly recommend that our volunteers use their everyday names (rather than their user names on MF) when talking to reporters and keeping their user names PRIVATE. That decision is not up to me, but that is my recommendation.

Also: Decide in advance what your personal boundaries are about sharing info. It is okay to say you are not willing to talk about X (whatever X may be for you) and also okay to say you cannot speak about X because that was not your experience. Or, you can also say you cannot speak to X but suggest the reporter ask jessamyn about X or for a referral to someone else.

Thanks again for your willingness to help. I really felt terrible when I spoke to a reporter too candidly and looked like an idiot. I did not prepare for the interview in any way. I was no longer a journalist myself and was simply thrilled to get the attention. And then I felt terrible about myself for years.

Don't be me. Be kind to yourself whatever happens. And remember, it is possible all the reporters I contact will pass on this pitch, the way they did nearly two years ago. Even if that happens, y'all are still doing a huge service to the community by volunteers. That is much appreciated.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:45 AM on June 25 [12 favorites]

Another tip for interviews - personally, I strongly prefer to be interviewed in writing, so I have time to get my thoughts straight, stay on message, use more specific vocabulary, and even fact-check myself. When reporters email me to schedule a call, I just write back, "Hi, great to hear from you! I'm thrilled to share my experience... Is it cool if we do it in writing instead of by phone? You can send me questions and I promise I'll write like a person talking!" (Try to sound like a person talking in that email so they feel confident in your writing skills). They usually agree, and email their questions. Makes me feel like I'm doing a much better job of representing myself and my talking points! Bigger outlets might not want to do this, but it may be worth a try.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:22 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

Thanks for that advice, nouvelle-personne! That is excellent advice and often super helpful to the journalist as well.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:04 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Hey folks, many thanks again to those who volunteered to speak to a reporter. I will be sending out pitches to new places next week. Steven Levy of Wired did just publish his take on MF's anniversary in his newsletter, which can be read here.

It is entirely possible that no one else will pick up the story, but Steven did and for that I am grateful as well as to NotLost and the many others who have helped me. Thanks so much!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:52 AM on July 12 [9 favorites]

Hey, that’s an awesome hit. Congrats!
posted by warriorqueen at 8:56 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

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