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How To Get Covered In a Major Tech Blog (dshipper.posterous.com)
103 points by dshipper on Aug 26, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

Actually, this is pretty much in line with the advice I give to entrepreneurs when they're pitching me for a story on Mashable.

The big things to remember:

- We get hundreds of emails per day. I can barely keep up, so I need to use personal filters to weed out stories I'm going to follow up on. That means I trash long emails, emails that don't get to the point, and anything with buzzwords.

- Best thing is always an intro from somebody I know about the company/product. Cold pitches have a much lower chance of working.

- Short, pithy emails. Get to the point in less than a paragraph and then ask if I want to learn more.

- Know the audience. Mashable is a consumer-centric publication -- we don't cover a lot of enterprise news or startups. Our readers DEVOUR great consumer products that help them manage their digital lives though.

- Know the reporter. Mashable has two reporters that focus on startups. Most of my time is spent editing, which means I have less time than I'd like to write about startups. Some reporters focus on entertainment, others on mobile. Know which one focuses on what and try to get the appropriate person to pitch.

- Don't pitch via Facebook, Twitter or anything but email or in-person if you're at an event and find me. Even then though, I'll ask you to email me in case I want to forward it to another reporter.

~ Ben

Wow I did not expect to hear from the Editor-At-Large at Mashable. Thanks so much for the comment - really valuable to stuff :) Interesting point about not pitching via Facebook. Maybe I should remove that. Do you think that it goes over the line, or is it just annoying?

Use Facebook to figure out who our mutual connections are, but don't send the pitch in a Facebook Message. Facebook is my personal space and I like managing my pitches in one central location.

Other journalists may have different feelings, but I think most of us prefer email.

Now that I think about it I wonder if there's an opening for an app that helps journalists manage and keep track of pitches.

Does something like that exist? I feel like email isn't necessarily the most efficient system for it.

It's a potentially neat idea, but keep in mind that many people already use their email for such a purpose. Rather than a specialized app for managing and tracking pitches, consider building something that integrates into mail clients ala Rapportive?

I've been trying this form to try to avoid email chains. It doesn't always work but at least gets some basic information.


I've thought about it -- I know one or two make Google Docs for pitches. Problem is getting the people who email me to change their behavior.

What about being able to copy paste code that would hook the submit a story form on your site into the CRM?

I have been told catchy image or quick video would make it than short text. Also heard that money plays a role (You won't be covered unless you get funded enough ). Thanks for the pointers.

Having a quick video explanation makes it easier for me to explain your product to my audience, so yes, that sometimes works.

As for funding, I sometimes use that as a barometer of how "legitimate" you are. So yeah, if I see Sequoia is investing in you, I will perk up a bit, because I trust their judgement in picking good startups. But it isn't a deal-breaker by any means.

Convince the reporter you are speaking to that you are about to get covered in another major tech blog.

This works with dead tree media, too. Also works after you've been covered, since then you are an Officially Credible Source. There's a reporter who calls me every time she needs a Japan quote. I know why, theoretically, but "Say, did you see the soccer game? Can you sum up how Japan feels about winning? Is it a sign that the country is turning the corner and finding something to be proud in again?" at 4 AM always strikes me as funny.

I suppose if I cared to keep getting called at 4 AM I should give her the story she so transparently wants to write...

Have an interesting startup, one that's doing something that will make a large difference to a large number of people and doesn't look just like every other startup begging for coverage.

Here's a nice tool to help you find out how you're connected to journalists on Facebook & LinkedIn: http://www.gohachi.com/

Hopefully an email from a direction connection on Facebook or LinkedIn would annoy a journalist less than a cold Facebook or LinkedIn message from you. (re: Mystallic's comment)

From my personal experience you have to keep at it. We are a small team (http://infostripe.com) and we go in cycles of development and promotion. Throughout our beta as we reached each major milestone we have turned to journalists and tech blogs for coverage. With varying degrees of success.

Honestly it's hard to get attention when you are small, without major funding or in the right network circles. But we have pushed on and with each major update we get a little more traction with coverage and learn from our efforts. Our users love us but convincing the filters that be that we are worth their 500 words is a challenge that we underestimated. Thanks for your post, there are some good points in there and has provoked some interested responses.

Following up on this, once the first 'major tech blog' has covered you it is a whole lot easier to get the others. For my last project, GroupTabs (didn't work out, but that is another story) we id'd a journalist who had been working our beat (LBS). He was very receptive (http://venturebeat.com/2010/08/09/grouptabs-rewards-groups-f...) and once that hit, Mashable followed (spark of genius is invaluable press opp).

After that the bloggers started coming to us.

People also did seem to like our video as an 'outrageous' pitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACh-FqQqU4Q

I am tech-blogger and I receive a lot of mails from startups. So, I will spell out few tips on how to pitch better.

1. You need to have a story to tell. Don't worry if its not too dramatic, but you need to add that human element. 2. Catchy Subject lines: I remember a mail which had the subject "Two 17 year olds create the first RSS based social networking site". Could never ignore that. 3. Resources: Please provide us with relevant resources like a logo, a screenshot and a press release(if any). 4. About your company: Please tell us a bit about your company, who the founders are, investments made and any press mentions. 5. Do not spam: Do not send more than three mails asking us to feature you. That is frowned upon.

How much effort is coverage in a major tech blog worth?

Thinking about Moore's Chasam, doesn't coverage in a major tech blog encourage more early adopters that will consume the few startup resources you have before they move on to the next startup covered?


Is coverage worth it? Do a shockingly strong percentage of early adopters reliably become paying customers or engaged users?

I know the answer to this will be subjective, but in my mind, this is why I've never pushed for coverage in major tech blogs. If they pick something up on their own, that's fine... but I've never been sure if the effort is worth the cost and reward.

I would personally rather have my product or service good enough that customers will market it for me.

To me, being featured in a publication like TechCrunch would only be exciting because of the traffic. Too many people see it as validation for their product/service when it's anything but.

I think--potentially--it matters a lot more if you're not funded and/or if it helps you to get "discovered" by both users and folks who might fund you. We got covered in Mashable very early in our product evolution. It helped us a ton. We're a small startup in Memphis, TN and the coverage gave us some much-needed exposure and, at least partly, an air of legitimacy with VCs. Post-funding there are many more mechanisms for getting the word out about how awesome you are, but before that event happens there's nothing better than a little free advertising from a major tech blog.

And in the end the coverage has helped us become a better company. We have many many more users now than we did before the feature, and the exposure helped us gain quite a few "champion" users whose feedback has been invaluable to us as our product evolves.

Key thing for us was to make sure it was stated explicitly that we were pretty brand new. Huge props to Jolie O'Dell for working with us on that. We got a lot of new users from the article and for the most part they've been patient with us as we improve. And best of all we've started relationships with tech press that will hopefully help us out when we release super awesome feature x, y, and z.

My two cents...

I think that that's absolutely a good question to ask yourself. And the answer is that it depends. For WhereMyFriends.Be getting covered on Mashable was absolutely worth it. We've had over 40,000 signups largely from that article. For DomainPolish, my most recent project, it was awesome to get the coverage but it hasn't been a huge driver of sales yet. So I think the jury is still out. It could lead to a connection to a really awesome VC or startup guy that could give me advice to take it to the next level etc.

Was there particular value in the YC Y U NO coverage? Seems like coverage for coverage's sake. Networking value, perhaps?

Yes! There was a ton of value in it because it came a few days before we interviewed at YC. So it drove signups to our app and we got to show the partners that we were able to build an app in two days and get it on TechCrunch. We didn't wind up getting funded but I think it certainly helped our case :)

Short version: promote yourself.

Even though that may seem obvious I think a lot of people don't do it correctly. I hear a lot of people who say "Oh I submitted it to TechCrunch and didn't hear anything so I don't think it's going to get covered." That's the exact wrong mentality to have. Getting coverage is a game of percentages, and anything you can do to maximize those percentages should be taken advantage of. Don't pin all of your hopes on TechCrunch. Build an awesome product. Craft a great story. Then shout it from the rooftops, and leverage any connections you have to get people talking about it.

> Then shout it from the rooftops, and leverage any connections you have to get people talking about it.

In short: promote yourself.

Including writing stories about how you promoted yourself. Well done sir.

My mum used to raise money as her profession, I've seen how effective it is to work the phones for publicity.

Thanks man. Just trying to share my experience :). It's funny how much different marketing is now from back when people had to work the phones. I don't think I've ever gotten any type of coverage or connection from a phone call. Now it's all emails and social media. Things have certainly changed - I imagine it's way easier now than it ever was before. Especially for someone like me who's still in college.

The principles are the same, though. You have the gist of it: contact everyone you know. You're working the emails and tweets.

The downside is that without being careful you can come to be seen as a user. I see this mostly with people who get sucked into Amway or some other such can't-legally-refer-to-it-as-a-pyramid-scheme.

I wonder if the startup economy has sprouted any fixers yet -- those infinitely connected people everyone goes through because everyone goes through them.

Definitely true. I think they certainly exist in the startup economy just because that's the way things seem to work. It's the 80/20 rule. The vast majority of people are connected to a smaller subset that make it their business to know everyone.

How to get your blog read by grumpy HN folks: don't use a f*cking gray font color.

Too little contrast. Didn't read.

Damn default posterous themes :) sorry about that

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