If you have a client that operates in the channel or cybersecurity space, you probably know who Kyle Alspach is. Currently a senior editor at CRN, the IT channel trade outlet formerly known as Computer Reseller News magazine, Kyle has covered cybersecurity and related topics for many years.
Kyle’s resumé includes jobs at eight different news outlets. Most recently, Kyle covered cybersecurity for Protocol, a now-defunct but once highly regarded tech news outlet. Before that, Kyle was a reporter at VentureBeat covering cybersecurity news for technical decision-makers in the enterprise. He also had a previous stint at CRN, from 2016 to 2021. And from 2010 to 2014, Kyle covered energy, technology and venture capital for the Boston Business Journal.
Originally from Massachusetts, Kyle recently settled in New York City after living in Portland, OR for a number of years. Walker Sands met Kyle for a cup of coffee near his new home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. We wanted to know what he looks for in a good story and what it takes to get him to write something.
Right out of the gate, we asked about CRN’s readership. We wanted to understand who CRN’s readers are, and whether there needs to be a channel program angle for Kyle to cover a particular topic.
In terms of CRN’s audience, Kyle said, “a really good list we have is the Solution Provider 500. So, (our audience consists of) any company that’s on that list, anyone who is associated with those companies, plus all of the thousands of other companies that aren’t big enough to be on that list, but are in the same bucket as those companies.”
CRN’s readership includes value-added resellers (VARs), consultancies, the system integrators (SIs), managed service providers (MSPs) and, to an extent, distributors. “That’s basically our definition of the IT channel,” Kyle said.
But there doesn’t have to be an explicit channel program angle for Kyle to cover a piece of news or research. “Like any publication, we write things we think our audience would be interested in,” he said.
That includes new products and services as well as reports that might pique his audience’s curiosity. However, a channel angle helps. “Making it evident that it’s something partners will care about” goes a long way, Kyle says. And if you’re embargo pitching a product or service that is designed for the channel, you’ll need to offer Kyle an interview with a channel partner.
Like any good reporter, Kyle looks for a press release that contains specifics, not just lofty language that’s scant on details. “I find that a lot of releases just say what the top-level significance is,” he said. “For example, if it’s pitching a new partner program, the release will say, ‘This is an awesome new thing for partners, and we’re improving incentives’ or something.”
If a press release fails to include specifics, Kyle has to waste valuable time during the interview — time that could be better spent going deeper into the details of the announcement.
When it comes to threat reports or research into cybercriminal behaviors, Kyle gets so many pitches that he doesn’t have time to read every report. “It’s more of a bandwidth thing than anything else,” he said. “There are 3,000 cybersecurity vendors. And they don’t all reach out to me every week, but a couple hundred of them do.”
If Kyle’s too swamped to write a standalone article on a new threat report, sometimes he’ll mention the report in a broader article. For example, this past spring, Walker Sands pitched Kyle on a big report about ransomware that had been published by our client Sophos. Kyle wasn’t able to write a feature on the report itself, but he used some of the findings in a subsequent article about cyber insurance.
If Kyle doesn’t feature a piece of client news on the week it’s released, he can include it in his “10 Cybersecurity Companies Making Moves” articles. These articles are released monthly, typically during the first week of the month. For instance, 10 Cybersecurity Companies Making Moves: September 2023 was released the first week of October, and looked back at security vendors that made big announcements in September.
“I do that with funding rounds a lot,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, this company is super interesting. I’m not able to cover this right now, but I still want to cover this in some fashion.”
When you’ve got a piece of news to pitch Kyle, email is best. “I don’t want to be DM’d on Twitter, or texted,” he said. And broadly speaking, he needs a unique angle to motivate him to write. “I try really hard to not write the same story everyone else wrote,” he said.
Every year, CRN publishes Cybersecurity Week. It’s five straight days of coverage devoted entirely to articles on the changing threat landscape and the ways industry tools and trends are responding to those threats. It typically goes live the first week of October. So how far in advance of Cybersecurity Week is Kyle taking pitches?
“This year, I figured out what I was going to write a month or two ahead of time,” Kyle said. Clients may not be ready to pitch that far in advance. But offering Kyle client calls closer to the date can be helpful. Although he has his story ideas in place fairly early, he often needs interviews a week or two ahead of time to flesh out the articles.
Before Walker Sands left for its next journalist meeting, we asked Kyle if he’s open to in-person meetings like this with clients. The answer? Not so much.
“I’m not doing a ton of in-person meetings,” he said, describing a recent meeting where it took him a half hour to travel to the venue, followed by a half hour waiting for the person to arrive. “And then the conversation was two hours,” he added. That means this face-to-face with a source took 3.5 hours out of Kyle’s day.
When we heard how choosy Kyle is about in-person meetings, Walker Sands felt flattered that Kyle took the time to meet with us. “Well, you came to me,” he said. “Not everyone wants to come to me.”
Thank you, Kyle, for sharing your reporter perspective with us, as well as some helpful tips for cybersecurity PR professionals. Get in touch with Walker Sands to discover how our industry expertise can help you achieve your business outcomes.