Make the most of your interview notes

By Kevin Yanik | Managing Editor, LP Gas, Pit & Quarry


As a business media writer, I often find myself poring over pages of transcripts from interviews I’ve done for upcoming stories. The transcripts sometimes stretch 20 pages long, because I make a habit to type every pertinent detail from conversations into my MacBook.

Unfortunately, a 20-page transcript doesn’t easily translate into the 1,500-word feature story you were assigned to prepare for your print magazine. Twenty pages of notes could be molded into a 15,000-word feature, I suppose, but magazines have limited space. And a print magazine’s limitation is where editing comes in.

After completing a story that’s destined for the magazine, I’m inevitably left with morsels of interesting information or memorable quotes – I call them “scraps” – that simply don’t fit into the print version. Having completed an assignment, a number of writers simply toss away their scraps and move on to the next task. But these writers are discarding information they could sprinkle into other content arenas.

Take coverage I recently completed for the October issue of LP Gas, a North Coast Media publication that covers the retail propane industry. A cover story I prepared spans more than 1,600 words. A sidebar that accompanied the cover story is about 400 words, and a related Q&A that published in the magazine is about 1,200 words.

The coverage combined exceeds 3,000 words. That’s beyond the typical word count we’d dedicate to a single subject within the magazine.

Yet, despite the additional coverage, I was left with interview scraps that couldn’t fit into the print magazine. I connected with 11 people for our October coverage – that’s more people than I’d normally source – and several sources weren’t included in print.

The obvious home for content that doesn’t make it into print is the web. In my particular case, I took one of my best phone interviews and molded it into a Q&A with an expert that was promoted within the brand’s e-newsletter. Also, I captured two of my story interviews on camera, so our digital media content editor produced a pair of YouTube videos from those.

I’m still sifting through leftover notes from the assignment, and my plan is to prepare an entry or two for our brand’s blog. Social media is another obvious outlet for leftovers, and I plan to find opportunities to populate those pages as well.

LP Gas also has a monthly section in the magazine dedicated to the topic we covered in the October issue, so there may even be opportunities to position some of my notes there.

The takeaway here is to consider content opportunities beyond your initial assignment. Interview scraps can serve as informative nuggets for readers. Those nuggets will also help to minimize the number of editorial ideas you and your team must develop from scratch.

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