Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes.
Today we're speaking with Alesandra Dubin. She is an award winning freelance news and lifestyle writer based in Los Angeles. Her work appears in Insider, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, AFAR, Women's Day, Prevention, Today and countless other print and digital outlets. She holds a Master's in journalism with a concentration in cultural reporting and criticism from New York University, and a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley. Welcome, Alice.
Alesandra Dubin 1:14
Hi, thanks so much for having me. I'm honored.
Angela Tuell 1:17
Oh, thank you for joining us.
Alesandra Dubin 1:20
Your list of guests is illustrious.
Angela Tuell 1:04
Oh, thank you. Well, you're one of them. So that's, wonderful. You know, I would love if you would start by walking us through your career and how you've gotten to where you are now. I know, at one point, you relocated from New York to LA, and have worked internally for Bravo and BizBash. And as a contributor for countless other media outlets.
Alesandra Dubin 1:26
Yeah. So I actually am from Los Angeles, I grew up here. And I went to Berkeley for undergrad, was living in the Bay Area for some time. And then I eventually went on to NYU for journalism school. And my focus there was cultural reporting and criticism, which at the time was just a super unique program, I'm not sure if it is still quite so rare to have that kind of cultural recording and criticism niche, but that was sort of where I started my career as so I was living in New York at that time. And my first job out of graduate school was with, as you said, BizBash, which is an event industry trade. And this was really, I mean, it sounds almost silly to say now, but I think I started that job in 2003. And it was still quote, new media, you know, we were online. We had, we had print too and, but we were also, you know, a website, and obviously building things very differently than we build websites now. But it was at the time, we were, you know, I think I was the fourth editor on the staff. And at some point, we were really growing and had launched bureaus outside of New York, and really all all around the country. And I was offered the chance to move back to Los Angeles, again, where I'm from as a chance to launch the LA bureau. And I did so only very reluctantly, because I didn't feel like I was ready to leave New York. I mean, New York has a way of doing that to you. It's the center of the universe. Certainly it is the center of the media world. And I Oh, it seems like a lot to step away from, but it turned out to just truly be the best. Honestly, I almost didn't make the choice to come. And I'm just so glad I did. You know, looking back on all of the things that have unfolded since then, not just in my career, but you know, I actually met my husband through through work as it turns out, and you know, my kids and I'm, you know, getting to live near my, my parents and my kids have all four grandparents living in LA. So it's really a life that I'm very pleased that it flowed in this direction, not just professionally, but personally too.
Angela Tuell 1:26
Yes, and you know, you write about many various topics, including travel, food, events, health and wellness, fashion and beauty, entertainment and celebrity real estate, home, pregnancy, parenting, I keep going on personal finance, you know, that is quite broad. How do you narrow down your work or choose what to focus on?
Alesandra Dubin 4:06
It's, it's an interesting question, because one school of thinking, you know, for freelance writers is to really niche down. And in fact, it's kind of a core philosophy of someone who's actually kind of my guru in the world of of freelance writing, you know, high income freelance writing, especially business writing, Jennifer Goforth Gregory, I'll give her a shout out. And she, you know, she really kind of espouses niching down and also that makes you certainly an expert in a particular field and it makes your all your your website and your profiles, very SEO friendly by that particular topic and so forth. That said, it's not for me, and I know because I've made, you know, a career of doing it this way, that there really is a way to be a highly successful generalist too. And I find financially rewarding, it's diversified. So in that way, it's kind of, you know, recession proof for if something happens, there's a, you know, pandemic, and then we're doing less travel and more health, whatever the case may be. So it's actually very marketable in that way. But it's also just so very interesting. So 20 years into my career, I can, I can honestly say that, like, I learn new things every, every week, and I just don't get bored. I just am continually excited about the work I do. And it's so varied.
Angela Tuell 5:34
Yeah, that's wonderful. How do you get your stories?
Alesandra Dubin 5:38
I have a range of actually a very wide range of clients, outlets. And from some of those outlets, I get regular, you know, monthly assignments, or I have a certain expectation that a certain number of projects are going to come through, or I'm going to, you know, devote this amount of my time to that particular outlet. And in other stories that are assigned, maybe they're assigned based on SEO, or news or something trending. But I also pitch story ideas, you know, unique story ideas. And that just comes from my life that comes from my my own travels, that comes from my family. My parenting and relationship experiences, my style, you know, mindedness and it just, it draws from my own life. And I will say that, when I started growing a freelance business, originally on the side, and then eventually it turned into a staff job. And, you know, when it was I was giving 10 hours a week, and then 15, and then 20, 25, whatever it was, add to NBC Universal, that was with Bravotv.com, when we I was one of the earlier editors, building the lifestyle, verticals there. And then I was laid off in 2019, as part of, you know, a reorganization. And it was very hard for me. It was, I mean, obviously, sort of goes without saying, but it really rocked my identity. I had never been laid off before, which is sort of strange looking back on 20 years of very, you know, rapidly changing industry. But it was, you know, it was tough. And then it was clearly revealed itself as the best thing for me. It was, you know, within several months, I was building this really diversified business because another freelancer, a friend had given me some advice. For the first six months as a freelancer say yes to everything, because you don't know what you're gonna like, or not like, that allows you so. So then five months after I started saying yes to everything, the pandemic hit, and I was already had my hands in so many cookie jars. And then within like a year of, you know, having left that corporate environment, I just, I, it's really hard to imagine ever, ever going back and going back and writing. So like, for me, it's really, it's really can just be a joy.
Angela Tuell 8:16
Yeah, I was just talking to our last podcast guest Sally French, about this, and about the laying off part and how things happen, that you think that nothing's good are going to come from it or you know, it's always something better, those things always happen for a reason. So -
Alesandra Dubin 8:31
100%. And I think that because now that's actually, some version of that has happened to me twice in my career. And because it's happened to me, and I've seen it, I only have to look as far as my own experience to see how it turned out. That I know that it's not a platitude, like it is so real, that, you know, whatever a door closes, a window opens that pushes you in the direction of your true destiny or whatever. And that sounds like such a, sort of a hokey platitude, but I've seen it pan out within my own life, and to many others, too. You know, often we make changes only because we have to, you know, because we're forced to, but it pushes us in a direction out of the nest that we might not have otherwise gone and is really where we were meant to be.
Angela Tuell 9:18
100%. So what are some of your recent favorite articles?
Alesandra Dubin 9:23
I recently did a story for Glamour that was part of a sustainable fashion package. And it was - the headline was something like, that thrift store find was worth how much and it was, it was pegged on my own experience of buying a $10 ring at a yard sale in New York and wearing it for 10 years and then eventually letting it sit in in my drawer and then selling it last year on The Real Real which priced it at $550. And so
Angela Tuell 9:54
Alesandra Dubin 9:55
My fun story and then I talked to many other Who made my story look like nothing like the guy who bought a watch for $5.99 and sold it for $35,000 on eBay. So it was a fun it was it was fun to dig up those stories and also talking to appraisers and authenticators. And, you know, even somebody who had spent time as an appraiser on Antique Roadshow about how that works. And so that was really fun. And it's also kind of changed the way I even shopped since then, because I learned a lot, you know, from from those appraisers and you know, ways to to determine provenance and things like that. So that was a fun one. Another one, actually, that's not so recent, but it's gonna say it's relevant because of where we are right now in the year. This one I actually did last year, and I shopped it around a lot, I thought it was gonna be a slam dunk, but it was it was not easy to sell it and I'm so glad eventually found a home at Insider. It was about how I take summer Fridays, I give myself summer Fridays, as a freelancer, you know, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I take short days, and this is what I do with them. And this is why it's so valuable for for mental health, but also for productivity. And, you know, yeah, I just really kind of believe in that lifestyle. And, and I was happy to talk to some people for the story too who, like a happiness researcher who supported the, you know, the the approach, and that was, that was a fun thing.
Angela Tuell 11:30
We'll, we'll include links to those in the show notes, for sure.
Alesandra Dubin 11:33
Great, thank you.
Angela Tuell 11:35
What story have you wanted to tell that hasn't made it in print or digital yet maybe I should say?
Alesandra Dubin 11:41
Yeah, you know, that's funny. So many travel stories, but so I just have so many travel stories, I want to tell that I am, you know, lining up to place and one day, I am sure that I will, I'm gonna say I will.
Angela Tuell 11:56
I know that some of your work includes product reviews. You know, and you're on the editorial side, how much does affiliate marketing links affect what you decide to write about? Is it something you do have to focus on or not at all?
Alesandra Dubin 12:10
Yeah, so it's a great question, because it's just, as you know, affiliate is so -
Angela Tuell 12:15
A whole new world. It's huge.
Alesandra Dubin 12:17
It's huge. It's everywhere. Every outlet just about has it. I'm sorry that I'm not prepared to cite this stat, but I want to say like 96% of outlets are doing some type of affiliate coverage. And again, maybe I can dig up that source. And we can put it in the show notes. But you know, that New York Times has a wire cutter, like it's the thing everyone's doing it. And so, so much has moved in this direction, that it's kind of an interesting blurring of the lines that might have, you know, to two decades ago, when I started out, have been considered kind of an impenetrable, like, Division of church and state. And so it's, I would almost call affiliate itself sort of a new format, it's its own thing. And I just find it really, really interesting. In most cases, I'm strictly determining my own products to include for instance, you know, products, services, ideas to include in, in a round up or, you know, review out of editorial judgment. But, for instance, in some cases, that it might mean that I wouldn't have an opportunity to write about something, even if I, you know, something I really believed in or cared about. If, for instance, that product, like wasn't part of an affiliate network. So those are some ways that it affects, you know, the affiliate effects decision making, although I should say like, you know, these are editorial pieces that are, you know, in for most of the outlets, for who might contribute affiliate content. We have, you know, discussion of methodology and all that stuff, so -
Angela Tuell 14:05
But you stand behind editorial, editorially. But you might not be able to include one that you stood behind if they didn't have affiliate links.
Alesandra Dubin 14:15
Right. Like that's one example of something that might affect decision making.
Angela Tuell 14:20
Right. Yeah. And for those who don't know, what affiliate marketing is, or, you know, do you want to explain it a little bit?
Alesandra Dubin 14:25
In the simplest terms, I guess it's sort of a revenue share, right? So you if you are reading about the best inflatable pool toys? I don't know, I don't know that's the first thing that came to me. And, you know, there, you're going to be discussing them based on durability and, you know, inventiveness whatever the case may be. That was a silly example. But, you know, we're recommending these choices based on our editorial discretion, but, if a reader wants to click through and purchase one of the items in that story, there will be an affiliate commission to the outlet. Because it's a special link, let's say in simple terms, it's a unique link that traces the click back to the outlet.
Angela Tuell 15:18
Yeah, and in some cases, I've learned recently to like through Amazon. Even if someone linked through and didn't buy that specific product, if they bought other products, they - the outlet still gets credit for sending someone to that website.
Alesandra Dubin 15:34
Right. And so that's another example of how affiliate might affect decision making. Even when the editorial itself, you know, the editorial judgment doesn't change. For instance, if a product is available on various different sites, but one of them is Amazon, our linked will often I should say, some, some outlets that I work with, ask that link, specifically be the Amazon link, because of the likelihood that people are to fill their carts with, you know, some hair, ponytail holders and that thing that you recommended, and a spare tire and whatever, and then they're gonna check out and then you're gonna get, you know, a share of that. So even if that product, again, was available in multiple places, Amazon would then take the priority for the story.
Angela Tuell 16:24
Yeah, it's quite a fascinating world. And it really, really, it came about from what I've learned, from just outlets saying, Okay, we're directing people to these products, and purchasing them, but we're not getting any kind of credit for it, you know, and so it just -
Alesandra Dubin 16:39
It's logical, it's really quite logical. And it's also, you know, at a time when, you know, revenue isn't revenue generation, like, isn't what it used to be in, you know, print media, where you have subscribers, you have advertisers, they buy pizza, that's, that's your sources of revenue, right? Obviously, there are many new and different revenue streams now. And that's, that's one of them.
Angela Tuell 17:03
Yeah, yeah. So going back a little bit to diversity in coverage. What are your suggestions for PR professionals when pitching you?
Alesandra Dubin 17:11
I mean, I sort of say the same things over and over. And we used to do with a group of other media friends, we used to do a chat on Clubhouse every every day. And I used to say the same thing over and over, which is really try to focus on the on authentic relationship building, and play the long game. You know, what stands out in my inbox is not actually like a catchy subject line, or certainly not a punny subject line or, or, you know, underlining and highlighting and bolding. It's really when I when the sender is someone that I know and trust. And so I haven't had the experience of having that pressure put on me by a client. But I can certainly imagine the pressures of you have this client, the retainer is this long, the expectation is this. And so, you know, you've sent you've pitched to these journalists on this day, by the following week, what do we have to show for ourselves? Like I said, I certainly understand that. But in my experience, it's just not how it actually works. And also, as we know, I mean, many freelance journalists, of course, we are everywhere. So maybe you had pitched me something that didn't work for that outlet I was working with at that time. But now six months later, I'm actually with a different outlet. And it's perfect, or I have the right assignment. And of course, so publicists obviously move around, journalists move around, everybody is constantly in motion. But all of us that still exist kind of in the same soup as years and years and years go by. So I think if you've really built authentic relationships with journalists, who then know, like, I know, of course, who the smartest publicist in my inbox are - the ones who are always going to try to give me like, a story that I can really work with, and, and who have clients that, you know, I know, obviously, because over the years, we've built that trust, and so forth, I know that if I see their name in my inbox, there's probably going to be something useful in it. And in fact, even if there isn't, I'm going to click it anyway. Because we've had that relationship in the past. I want to understand what you're asking now. And then I'll at least sort of get back to you with feedback. Whereas if it's just email upon email, have totally unrelated you know, things that are not related to my beat, and we don't actually know each other at all, I can just delete, delete, delete, you know, it's very easy. And I think, again, I understand the pressures but playing the long game truly, truly is the way to go.
Angela Tuell 19:43
Always pays off. Right?
Alesandra Dubin 19:44
Angela Tuell 19:44
Yeah, yeah. Like many freelance writers, now you have a substack newsletter. For those who are not familiar. Please tell us a little more about it. Why you started it? How's it going?
Alesandra Dubin 19:55
Yeah, sure. So I started it as a way to call for sources and expert requests that was more effective and more streamlined than HARO, which can I assume that everybody listening knows what that is?
Angela Tuell 20:14
Yeah, you know, why don't you say really quick?
Alesandra Dubin 20:15
Sure, sure. Sure. So that's an acronym for Help a Reporter Out. And it is a platform that allows writers to post stories they're working on and what they're looking for. Calls for pitches, for instance, I need a pediatric dermatologist to talk about the best sunscreens for my blood, my deadline is such and such. Then to get feedback from potential sources, that can be very effective. And it's something I've used a lot over the years, it was my go to. It is also flooded with, it's sort of polluted with unqualified sources. So so called experts or somebody who, you know, on at least one occasion, and I know other journalists have found many more occasions than that. It's just like, you think you're getting original comments, but they're totally plagiarized. And so, you know, many journalists practices to run those through a plagiarism checker, just as a matter of course, I mean, you just don't know what you're getting. And in many cases, I've gotten wonderful feedback and met people that way, who then became sources for many more stories in the future that were like in my rolodex. But this was a way to call for sources, sort of an expert quest among my network that was more, you know, streamlined, less anonymous, you know, so less likely to be polluted with just totally weird stuff. And also, a way to kind of share my recently published published stories, people often reach out and say, oh, did this go live yet? And so for, so it's a way to sort of show what I've been working on. And then I was really pleased at how it grew, and readers seem so engaged. And I think it's really my platform to connect with others across the industry in this way in what is really an increasingly diffuse and remote world.
Angela Tuell 22:05
Yes. Oh, my goodness. And I love it. I love them too. I mean, I do feel like I know some of them even more personally, that that I used, because of the newsletter, you know.
Alesandra Dubin 22:14
Angela Tuell 22:15
The, the one other thing is most have a paid version now too. So with yours, what is the difference?
Alesandra Dubin 22:21
You know, I hung back on that for a while, I just really wanted to be sure that I was offering something differentiated if I was, you know, going to ask those subscribers to pay for it. And also, I mean, to be frank, I wanted to make sure I had the bandwidth to offer, you know, additional original content that was right valuable to people, because I have been quite slammed at work. So when I finally did about a couple of weeks ago, and first I should say that, of course, my you know, calls for pitches and experts and sources and other resources, like recently published stories, things like that will always be free, that's never going to be behind a paywall. So. So that will continue to be available to everyone. But I decided to launch the paid version to kind of add real, real value with what are my, my unique perspectives on the industry, based on, you know, kind of so many perspectives and positions that I've held, as well as like my continuing dialogues and access to other writers and industry friends. So one of the things I offer in addition to my industry insights kind of direct to your inbox is ask me anything sessions on Zoom, or, you know, one on one consulting kind of through these memberships. So paid subscribers can then use it as a platform to ask for my specific takes on sort of like what works and what doesn't. So, for example, you know, I'm I'm thinking of planning a press trip or event amid whatever new COVID variant is happening is what do you think about this idea? Or maybe like offer, offer feedback for or offer just sort of my perspectives to let's say, a bunch of junior staffers joining the team about what writers are looking for - whatever the case may be, is sort of a bespoke approach that that subscribers might be looking for. So in addition to those industry insights in the newsletter, it's sort of you might say, it's sort of a consulting arm as well.
Angela Tuell 24:19
Yeah, that's invaluable to get that feedback from someone in the industry. Yeah, every day, for sure. So switching gears just a little bit, I have to say as a fellow twin mom, I love that you travel the world with your kids. What is some of your best advice when traveling with children?
Alesandra Dubin 24:37
Okay, so first of all, shout out fellow twin mom. It's that it's not an easy task. So you know, I recently did a story. For Insider that was something to the effect of I've traveled the world with two kids and these are the mistakes I'll never make again. And one of, one of them that topped the list was, you know, you don't really want to go to cheap, you'll pay for it and other ways, like I used to be so dazzled by those, you know, like $100, long haul flights between LA and Europe, and wow, this is amazing. And who wouldn't want to go to Europe for $100. And then the drink cart comes by and it passes you because you're not entitled to water and you're like, you know, totally all that hard ticket and, you know, things that are even if they were possible, or, you know, more feasible with just two adults, when you're traveling with kids, you're going to probably regret if you just go absolutely bargain basement on everything, you know, maybe more leg room, maybe get some meals on the plane. You know, maybe you want to pay for a bag, even if that pains you as it does me, that kind of thing. So and that but the other the other thing that, you know, I've really learned about traveling with with kids, because I didn't really travel with them as babies, we really wait until they were toddlers to do it. And then when when we did it just it's been so rewarding and so wonderful. No, it is not easy traveling with kids. It's not that's, that's foolish to suggest it is but for me, it's harder to not do it than it is to do it because not not doing it is just it's painful. I don't I don't want to wait till till you know, my kids are out of the house before I get to travel again. And I also would so missed those experiences with them that it's just it's harder to do. But in from where I sit, it's much harder to to not do it. I'm getting out there. So my advice is just push through it.
Angela Tuell 26:46
You know, they're going to have those fighting and whining at home it might as well have it in a beautiful location. I do find that our children, a lot of times are even better behaved when we're on vacation than at home. Not that they're perfect at all. But you know.
Alesandra Dubin 27:05
Yeah, I think just a change of perspective is so useful for everybody. You know, it really is, I think everybody kind of needs to get out of the small space figuratively and literally, they're in and especially following, you know, two years of being, you know, cooped up in this house and Zoom school and all of that. It's like we all need to get back out there and, and experience, you know, new perspectives.
Angela Tuell 27:33
Yes. 100%. What are some places you've traveled that have really surprised you?
Alesandra Dubin 27:38
You know, that's funny. It's a funny question, because I am such a heavy, like, researcher that maybe
Angela Tuell 27:46
You weren't really surprised when you got there.
Alesandra Dubin 27:48
I can't allow myself to be surprised because I will have already like
Angela Tuell 27:50
I'm the same way.
Alesandra Dubin 27:52
- found the end of the internet on that topic. I'll let you know when it happens.
Angela Tuell 27:57
Okay, good. Good. What about some of your favorite places, which I know is hard as well.
Alesandra Dubin 28:02
Oh, gosh, um. So when my kids were four, we, we just had such a great travel year we went to in the same year, we went to like Morocco and Portugal and Greece and Croatia on the Dalmatian coast. And it was just fabulous. Just a wonderful year of travel. And they as I said they were four and I'm like, Okay, I think we are in the game. We are you know, we can get we can get out there. These kids can hoof around, you know, all over sites. And, you know, we're we're ready for primetime travel. Now we have made it and then COVID. So COVID kind of knocked, knocked us out as it as it did you know, everybody for a while, but you know, we're back in the game.
Angela Tuell 28:55
So yes, yes. Yeah. There's lots of exciting, exciting things on the horizon.
Alesandra Dubin 28:59
Angela Tuell 29:01
And before we go, I have to ask one more piece of advice. I would love to hear about your best either parenting or health, wellness advice based on some of the work you've done.
Alesandra Dubin 29:10
Yeah, so I take bits and pieces of everything that I learned through the course of reporting stories. You know, often if I've interviewed a, a pediatric sleep specialist or dermatologist or nutritionist or whatever, I'll often like find it very interesting what they said and I'll quote doctor's feedback or recommendations to friends or my husband or something after having heard a particularly salient comment during an interview. But one thing I've learned about parenting is it's really just not binary there's there is no right answer. There is one there is no one size fits all approach. Every kid is different. Every parent is different and also every single day is different. And so with with with that child with the child's mood with your mood with conditions in the world, somebody gets sick, whatever the case may be. So there just really is no one size fits all approach. And one thing I've learned is to sort of take, you know, the nuggets that you find interesting and incorporate them if they work. If they don't, it's okay. Leave the rest. You're doing it right.
Angela Tuell 30:18
That's great advice. That's good advice. how can listeners connect with you online?
Alesandra Dubin 30:23
Sure. So as discussed, I do have my substack. Yeah. And that's AliceDubin.substack.com. And I would love for you to subscribe. And in fact, as I said, you know, it's free to subscribe unless you advance the paid membership. I am on Instagram and Twitter at at AliceDubin. And my my portfolio and bio and all that good stuff is at AliceDubin.com.
Angela Tuell 30:48
Thank you so much for joining us.
Alesandra Dubin 30:49
Thank you so much for having me.
Angela Tuell 30:51
Yes. Bye bye.
That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We'd love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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