News is something my readers don't already know. My readers are in the industry and generally know what's in press releases or the scripted press briefing. So send me those in advance, and let's get to what's new and surprising.
I treat most calls as background, including putting them off the record if that makes it easier to talk. If I hear something that would make a good story, great.
Unlike most tech pubs, I'm not looking for stories about companies in the business. I'm looking for new technologies, trends and network building that my readers aren't likely to know about. That's a high bar; some of my readers are CTOs of major companies and very well informed already.
I minimize reporting about material reported widely or in well-distributed press releases. The people in the industry who care about press release material usually get them directly. On the other hand, I include in my article the press release itself for those who want more detail - at the end.
I've also found that industry readers want to know what the network builders are doing; many articles that mostly are material from a vendor have a headline based on what a carrier is doing. For example, I recently wrote an article about Massive MIMO with a great deal of material from Huawei. My headline and lead were about China Mobile and Softbank ordering 1,000 of units. The Huawei pr guy would have preferred Huawei in the headline, but I believe his prospective customers are more interested in the telcos' decision
Unfortunately, I'm a slow writer. I don't always get to finish stories I should be writing. Sorry.
Five Minute Prep Calls
I often ask for a five minute prep call before the interview.
I've found my subject shifting is annoying to many who have a presentation. If it's not something I need to know, I try to shift to things interesting to me and I might report. So I like to have a short call to figure out what's most appropriate.
For example, I asked someone from CBNL to skip telling me the validity of point to multipoint delivery to commercial and high end customers. It's true, but I get it already.
On the other hand, I'm interested in details of microwave at 2-10 gigabits. Ericsson had just announced five gigabits. I'm also was interested in WTTR, wireless to the rooftop, to consumers, which AT&T is doing in the midwest. What's new here is that AT&T is going to consumers, not businesses, and then using copper throughout the building. They hope to use G.fast over the existing phone wires rather than running Cat 5 or 6.
Similarly, I knew there were going to be a slew of trials of mmwave 5G across Europe by 2020. To what extent will microwave be able to support them, at what cost, and with what latency? (5 gigabits will be the minimum backhaul. U.S and I think most other carriers assume that requires fibre backhaul, but Ericsson tells me to reconsider.)
All of which are topics I'm sure CBNL has been looking at and might have information I can use. I usually conclude a call asking the subject what questions I should have asked, often discovering important things I missed. In this case, it turns out that CBNL had a large and little reported millimeter wave to consumers. I got an interesting story.
I also often ask the other side if there's anything I might have seen they'd like to ask me. In this case, I was back from a trip to Tokyo where I spoke with Softbank, NTT, China Mobile, and Safaricom about future plans and 5G. I was happy to share what I had, and am looking forward to interesting calls with them in the future.