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Writers@Work: The Problem with Source Finding Services by Ryan Evans

I met Ryan Evans at the #ASJA Content Connections conference in Chicago. I was immediately impressed with how his company Source Sleuth helps journalists find the best sources. I immediately thought of you all–and how you could make use of the tools Source Sleuth offers! Read on to learn about the digital journalism tools that Ryan Evans’s company offers and why his method works. —Rochelle, The Write Now! Coach


ss-logoThe Problem with Source Finding Services

by Ryan Evans

A story isn’t a story without people. Good writers are always on the hunt for quality sources that will challenge, reinforce or provide context and perspective for their story. But finding sources is just part of the process.  Generating story ideas, doing research, conducting interviews, meeting deadlines and putting the pieces together into a well-written story that people want to read takes a lot of time.

Today there are plenty of tools to find sources. Google and social media have made research a lot easier. But doing research and reaching out to sources is still very time intensive.

Query platforms were created to save time by enabling journalists to send out custom requests for sources and have responses magically appear in the inbox. When these platforms were first created they were a major innovation in connecting with sources. But the popularity of these services has created new problems.

A person who responds to a source request is not necessarily a quality source. People who respond to requests are only a tiny subset of the sources out there. Plus, even the quality sources who do respond aren’t necessarily the best source for a story; they are just the best of the people who are using a particular service. Many times, the people who respond are PR folks who are trying to demonstrate their value by responding to as many queries as possible.

This is why it’s common for a writer to submit a query and receive dozens of responses, but only find a couple (if any) sources that are actually a good fit for a story.

In the end, source-finding tools that seem like great time savers can actually turn out to be the opposite.  While they can save time on research, writers generally end up scrolling through many irrelevant emails and still need to vet the sources that meet their needs.

The other problem is that these services publicize the source requests to a very large email distribution list. This can cause another set of problems. Writers run the risk of being scooped or irritating the publication by using their brand name.

We created a service called Source Sleuth ( to address these problems. First, writers can choose to make their queries private. When they do this, we don’t email out the query or announce it on social media. Writers don’t have to worry about being scooped or using a publication’s name.

Second, we find sources in a unique way. We search through a very large proprietary database that we have created. Our database is different because sources don’t have to know about us to be included in the database. Much like how Google finds and includes websites in their search engine, we find and include source profiles in our database. Because of this, we don’t have many PR professionals in our database. (Full disclosure: some people do pay to be included in our database, but they comprise less than 1% of our sources. This is how we are able to provide Source Sleuth as a free service to writers.)

Even though our database is expansive, we don’t have every single expert or source on the planet in there. When we don’t have a good source, we’ll track one down the good old-fashioned way—by using our brains, and doing the research and other legwork involved in finding a quality source. Because finding sources is all we do, we’ve gotten pretty good at tracking down and connecting reporters with high quality sources. We take our job pretty seriously, and we’ll usually research and connect a source with a writer within 48 hours.

About the author. Ryan Evans is the Founder of Source Sleuth ( Ryan is passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation.  When he’s not working, he spends time with his wife and chases his three little kids around the park. Find Source Sleuth on Twitter:

Company Bio: We help journalists, bloggers and other super smart media folks find quality sources.

More Information: Who should use Source Sleuth?

  • Professional journalists
  • Podcast hosts
  • Bloggers
  • Editors … and more

It doesn’t matter if you need a source once a month or once a day – our team can help you find the right people faster.

The rules.

  • No sharing your stories with the competition
  • We won’t send you leads unless they’re legit
  • We never EVER sell contact info to third parties.


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