Forbes….. the long-overdue update

Hi peeps,

Hope you’re all well? It’s been AGES since I did a proper update here on the blog. Myself and RJ are just about to head Europe-ward (for a very exciting reason), so I’m hoping to make time to do that on one on the many long-haul flight we’ll be taking! With only a few days until we fly, my life is a mess of packing & planning, and trying to tie up a few loose ends. One of those is to address something I’ve been asked a lot about, both by people online and in real-life.

What’s happening with your Forbes column?

The very short answer is that, for various reasons, I have reduced my commitment to one story a month.

The longer answer is as follows: As you might remember from this blog post, I pitched myself to Alex at Forbes back in December 2015 – he was on the hunt for new science contributors, and I knew that they didn’t have anyone who focused on cities, so I put my hat into the ring! Anyway, my first contract with them was to write five stories a month, for $200 (That’s in total – so, $40 per article). In addition, I’d also get a very tiny amount ($.005 – $.05) for every time an article was read. So, yeah, this was never going to be a moneymaker for me, especially as I’m a pretty slow writer. I do lots and lots of research for each article I write, and where possible , I’ll meet, or have a phone interview with, one of the people involved in whatever I’m writing about. That mans that my articles take time to write, but because I want to be proud of anything I publish, I think it’s worth it.

Forbes is also a fantastic outlet for reaching global audiences – my articles for them have been shared by people on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn…even Instagram! And the editors themselves also push the science articles out on the official Forbes channels too – occasionally, the main Forbes Twitter account have picked up one of my stories, and when that happens, my reader figures skyrocket. My most popular article to date is this one, and it has reached more than 48,000 people!

And, perhaps most importantly, when I contact scientists or engineers to ask for interviews, they are always impressed by the fact that I have a Forbes column. Having a well-recognised ‘home’ for my writing means that I can send people the link to my profile, and they can read my stuff. As a result, they tend to feel comfortable in speaking to me, and as a ‘known quantity’, they can trust me not to twist their words.

So, despite the poor pay-per-piece, joining the Forbes stable of science contributors has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for me, and I really hope that Alex keeps letting me write for him for ages yet! But, it turns out that moving to the other side of the world, trying to set myself up as a self-employed science writer & communicator, making friends and professional connections, finding a place to live, oh and attempting to write my second book, actually takes up QUITE a lot of time and mental energy. It became clear in mid 2017 that something had to give.

Thankfully Alex was REALLY understanding of my predicament, and agreed to let me reduce my commitment to one article per month. So that’s where we’ve been for a little while now, and it seems to be working well. Prior warning: September might be an article-free month, as I’ve made a promise to at least TRY not to work during our trip to Ireland and London. We’ll see how that goes!

But anyway, here are FIVE of my personal favourite articles from the little while. Remember that all of my articles can be found via this link:

The Secret Science Of Airports: I manage to talk my way into a behind-the-scenes tour of Wellington Airport, escorted by the GM of Operations 🙂 It was really fun:

Does Pushing The Button At A Crossing Actually Do Anything? This was prompted by a Twitter conversation, and proved to be much harder to answer than I expected!:

If We All Stopped Tailgating, We Could Dramatically Cut Traffic Jams This was based on a paper that I was sent, and it prompted lots of conversation online!

Digital Currencies And Credit Cards Have Subways To Thank For Their Existence This one came via my mate Tom at TfL. The Oystercard recently turned 15, so he got in touch to ask if I’d like to talk to the CTO of the organisation. What I learned from Shashi Verma blew me away – it was the people behind London’s transport system that invented contactless payment cards! Don’t believe me? Read the article!

To Build Healthier Cities, We Need To Ditch The Car I was horrified to learn that NZ has the highest motor vehicle and car ownership rates of any OECD country! But then I found out about some research being done here in Welly on the health benefits of getting rid of cars, and I felt more empowered to continue my mass transit obsession