August 29, 2012

Don’t Shoot the Startup

No, this is how it feels.

Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch wrote a post on how the launch of Lyft was ruined when a blogger broke the launch date embargo. In the post, he writes that all reporters break embargoes, and admits to having done so himself. Interestingly, he also said he decided to not go forward with the coverage of the product “considering other reports were filed 12 hours ago”.

This is a crazy scenario. After having done everything in their control for a smooth launch, the company is left feeling helpless and frustrated as a result of what is said to be a common phenomenon among bloggers. We feel this pain, because we have experienced the exact same thing more than once. One blog published the news before our embargo time and other sites refused to cover us, as for them, it was now “old news”. This situation is particularly tricky for startups who work extra hard on building and maintaining relationships with the press, including the ones who break their embargoes and the ones who react by holding back a story.

As a company, we don’t really care if the news was in sync across all news sites. Simultaneously breaking news has its merits, but it’s a lot more important that we reach as much audience at as many sources as possible. For startups especially, missing the press train hurts, a lot!

There may be reporters who take embargoes seriously, but its also important that when one reporter breaks an embargo, the subject company isn’t penalized as a result. And as far as options go, it can’t be great for the news site that decides not to cover the story at all.

Even from a reader’s perspective, I couldn’t care less about which site broke a story first. I follow many blogs and if something really important happens, I’ll probably read about it on multiple news sites. I do, however, expect some sites to cover most of the startups and tech news, so it matters a lot more when a blog I visit frequently does not cover a newsworthy startup.

A product is a lot more than the date and time it is launched. Startups invest their time and talents into solving tough problems, they put months of thought into the minutest details of the design, functionality, features. There are great questions to ask about each new product – does it stand against the competition and the tech landscape, does it change the way we search, shop, work, eat? There must be alot more things to write about a product rather than just playing “first”.

At the end Ryan writes how sad it made him for Lyft’s loss, but it was in his control to not let the company’s efforts go unnoticed. It would be better if he wrote about the product, what was new and cool about it and what made it stand out, or what needed improvement, even if he wasn’t the first to break the news. He did however do a great thing by linking Lyft in his story. We are no TechCrunch but, in solidarity here is the link that we definitely think you should click – https://lyft.me.

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