Most press I've seen from friends being TC'ed is minimal. Unless your customers are people who read TC, the effect is minimal to converted customers. They had a ton of visitors which might have increased mindshare. TC can be a vanity metric if you're not careful, especially if TC's audience is not your paying customers. It helps be legit in having (some) press coverage, but it doesn't last if you can't back it up and delight people.
If you're doing what everyone else is doing to get coverage in the same places, the chances are greater you'll end up like everyone else (a startup that doesn't get where it needs to).
Focus on learning who your customers are, where they truly hang out, get their attention in those places, be it through story placement or advertising since not all sites use adsense, and some very successful sites have their own advertising engines.
Quality of eyeballs on your site is a far better metric to pursue than quantity.
In the reality you should take the time when your traffic is small to reach out to customers and get early feedback and polish the product as much as possible. The more work you put into based on real feedback from real users before the numbers get big, the greater the quality of the first impressions as your target audience trickles in.
Once your product is good enough, there are many ways to get users in. Press is one of them, but in my experience it comes on its own and is not worth putting much time in compared to more targeted user acquisition. In general, word of mouth will always always be the best, and that takes a great product.
I'm not even talking about the conversion rates and the quality that HN brings over TC/Mashable.
On the other end, it might get you a little extra cred to prove your rising traction.
Better to go for more specialized blogs, they are better for overall conversion.
1. Do searches on Google News for topics or companies you compete with. See who has covered them and create a spreadsheet with their names, contact info, etc -- This tells you they might be interested in what you have
2. Reach out and personalize -- Show them you've seen and taken time to understand their perspective on the industry or competitor. In a nice way, suggest an angle that you feel is more interesting or which often gets overlooked which hopefully dovetails with your product and piques their interest. This helps the blogger/journalist think about the storyline and whether readers would find it interesting quickly and not your X, Y, Z feature which only you care about.
3. The angle should ideally be something you have unique insight into. It might be directly related to your product or just something you have data on because of your product.
4. Use data as possible. There are lots of unsubstantiated claims out there so journalists/data appreciate useful facts supported by data. Warning: Don't make data/facts up or don't try to draw inane trends from 2 data points as smart journalists/bloggers will see through that. Yes, hack doesn't mean being dishonest. You're trying to build a relationship based on trust so don't be short-term greedy and try to kickstart things on a lie.
There are some downsides to this. The biggest being that your data might get featured and not your company. This may not be what you want. But, at the same time, you may become a resource for the journalist which means mentions over time, they may come back to you for additional data and you get mentions. This has happened for us. We're a data company so we might not be apples to apples for you, but we're a go to resource for journos/bloggers and see mentions 1-2 per week in a slow week in major media because of early legwork we did (note: our press page is hopelessly outdated so don't judge us based on that)
Hope this helps. Good luck.
I created targeted hit-list of bloggers that wrote about my competition or similar competition.
I also created a field that had sentiment analysis, so I read the previous article they wrote to see if the were PRO our type of tech or CON against our type of tech.
This would then allow me to send a more personalized email, and either give them fodder to support their PRO stance, or reasons to persuade them away from their CON stance.
In addition to this, there are different ways to reach out to them, wether it be via email, or other methods. I often find that starting some dialogue on twitter non-related to the subject and getting them to respond to you before "pitching" them works incredibly well.
In a previous life I created data for media, and my attempts to provide correct analysis and context were disregarded or shut down.
Roughly 25 useful tech journalists are following my progress via Twitter and I regularly reply offering my perspective on stories. With a few from time to time I'll ask for their advice when they can add value and eventually when I have something fit for a piece I'll get in touch having already validated my experience and progress.
It's much better than cold emailing asking for a story about your launch. They want to help you but you have to help them finding a story out of your launch. If they know a little about your history it will help this is why building a prior relationship helps.
Local News: http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2007/03/king-5-co...
The Daily Show: http://www.mikeindustries.com/scratch/dailyshow.mp4
When we launched Precorder, we got little (and so-so) press by describing a newly launched app w/ X Y and Z features.
When we started telling writers that we saw the camera technology used to capture great white sharks jumping out of the ocean and ported it to iPhones, we were covered by Kottke (http://kottke.org/11/01/precorder) and other influential photography bloggers who immediately triggered a long wave of follow-up press.
This video is no longer available because the
uploader has closed their YouTube account
They explain how to get press coverage using the "pyramid" method: start at the bottom, with small bloggers in your space. Email them, ask them to cover you. Then move up the chain. At the top of the chain are the big media people like NYTimes, CNN, etc.
Just don't do anything too crazy. You don't want to go to jail or hurt anybody. Keep it legal and moral, and you should be on your way.
Also, giving early access to smaller blogs/bloggers will allow you to create a given amount of buzz around the product. When reporters research your offerings (using Google for 99.99% of the work), they will get a lot of favorable hits about your product from these smaller blogs. Plus since they are smaller, they dont take away from the big news chance they might have with your story. Just be careful about who you contact, and be aware that some people will write about anything. They might write nicely about you in one post, and then praise Hitler in the next thus putting you in very very very very bad light.
Without the knowledge of Fred, we created an automatic podcast for his blog, AVC.com, using our API. We had no idea how he would react. It was weeks of effort, time, and money spent to build AVC.fm with the hope that Mr. Wilson would love us (or at least not send us a cease and desist!) And then, there was the tweet that made the weeks of brainstorming, trials and errors, and late nights, all worth it:
"AVC.fm, the unofficial blogcast of @avc created by @VoiceBunny avc.fm via @VoiceBunny."
by — Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) February 21, 2012
Fred tweeted our work and our name to his 207,000+ fans. That day, VoiceBunny.com got a huge amount of visits, with most coming out of Silicon Valley. We, of course, reached out to Fred right away and a few emails later, you can now hear AVC.fm right on Fred's blog at AVC.com.
Before you get into the “how” of a PR stunt, you must first figure out the “why”. You don’t want attention just for the sake of attention. You have got to capture the attention of the right people. And for VoiceBunny both Fred and his audience were the right audience.
The VoiceBunny team is a big fan of Fred Wilson’s work and especially his blog, AVC.com, but we didn’t always have time to read it everyday. So, we thought it would be great if AVC.com had a podcast so we could listen on our commutes or while we were working. So we thought, let’s make one for him! What better way to show off our technology and get the attention of the VC community? Mr. Wilson is a big supporter of the “freedom to innovate” and that’s why we felt creating AVC.fm was the perfect project for VoiceBunny.
So, since Mr. Wilson publishes under a Creative Commons license, we did not have to worry about getting his permission first. The VoiceBunny API automatically pulls the text from AVC.com after Fred posts and posts a project. One of our voice talents accepts the project and uploads a finished read. It is then screened for quality and automatically uploaded to SoundCloud and AVC.fm.
We wanted to make it very obvious we did this as a tribute, not to capitalize on his name or work. Yes, we did it to show off our technology, but, we created something of value to him and to the community. We also made it very easy for him to add to his blog if he chose to do so. We included a link asking, “Are You Fred?” that included instructions on how to embed the widget onto his blog.
On his blog, Fred said:
"In any case, I like they way they used a stunt to get my attention. So much more effective than sending me an email saying “I’d like to come talk to you about a new project we are working on”. So I’m going to start auto-embedding the avc.fm voice overs at the end of the posts on AVC (via the SoundCloud embed of course)."
You can read his entire post at http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/02/feature-friday-listen-to-thi...
Actually being sent a cease and desist by Fred would have given you an angle to get publicity if things didn't end up the way they did. But I'm actually a little surprised that since you say "The VoiceBunny team is a big fan of Fred Wilson’s work and especially his blog" you should have known that it was highly unlikely he would have done something like that.
Outcome 1: What happened, you got what you wanted
Outcome 2: Cease and desist - if that had happened, may hay with it. Mentioning if anyone else has this outcome.
Outcome 3: Ignore your "hack". The worse outcome. But in that case you have to be more proactive and approach him, several times (once again if you understand the way he rolls you realize he declares email bankruptcy and actually appreciates follow up emails.
Think of it as a value equation: you want the reporters to help you get press and make people think you have something cool on hand; they want something cool to share with their readers.
So, one way to do it is - as most of the comments have suggested - use guerrilla tactics to get to the journalists/writers/topics that are often covered.
But, what if you created or generated something that is really unique and content-worthy? We did this recently with my product, and ended up with an unsolicited TC piece.
How'd it work? We showed-off the types of awesome things our product could do, and it caught the writer's interest.
So, I'd say find a way to show-off why what you're doing deserves coverage, and then take some steps to help get that in front of people (that's where Twitter, HN, etc. comes into play).
Also, quick note, but the traffic you probably expect from TC coverage may not be accurate.
There were also text articles on the blog, one of which was even on the HN front-page for over 24 hours (it reported some friendly social-engineering by a then-competitor, now a YC company). The comics significantly outperformed the text articles in terms of engaged readers, though I didn't run the whole thing long enough to be of any practical help.
My partner and I are releasing an iPhone game soon, and we're planning to repeat this experiment but with somewhat longer-form comics. The idea is to communicate the human story behind the making of the app. If anyone is interested, my email is in my profile.
It figures out which journalists write about your space / niche, and also figures out what their reach is and how busy they are.
If you're interested, shoot me an email: joseph at metaoptimize dot com.
Everything I work on is B2B so 100% of sales are done via a conversation and not someone landing on the site and clicking "sign-up" so YMMV. The news articles was only important to solidify ourselves as a legit operation, and not really for the press it generated.
Unless you have the perfect product don't expect anything but a spike in downloads/visitors to your product.
For me it has been an excellent learning process and every time I release something I get better and better at it.
A probably easy angle would be, "Rejected from YC, now Bigger Than Jesus". A well-baited hook for HN and bonus SEO on YC.
KISSMetrics is another:
Reporters post there looking for sources for their stories. If you match what they are looking for, you email the reporters.
I've gotten myself and my co-founder quoted in a bunch of publications this way. Hard to tell how much traffic they've generated though since it's been mostly print publications, so no link.