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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

The Problem with Mainstream Tech Media

I stumbled onto PunchTab yesterday and was immediately intrigued by the product. So as an entrepreneur interested in learning as much as I can, it's an obvious decision to click through the blog where I find a cool-sounding article: "Hacking PR: How we got PunchTab on TechCrunch 3 times in 3 Months".

Having just now read through the article (good read with solid advice btw), I was reminded why I despise mainstream tech media (TechCrunch & the likes) so much. The author of the article basically suggests these 3 ways of getting onto TechCrunch (as this is what worked for PunchTab):

1. Founder of X starts Y. Even better if the band gets back together. (This doesn’t work if nobody ever cared about X.)
2. Y’s product can be used by bloggers. (Not a slam dunk for two reasons: you need to build a good product and the individual writer needs to see his way to becoming a user. There’s no cheating here, just good old value creation.)
3. Y raises money. (’nuff said.)

These are the problems I have with each of these approaches:

  1. Where does this leave new entrepreneurs or new founders? I'm not denying that this makes a good story, but past reputation & success shouldn't be such a big determining factor in getting coverage. I'm all for entrepreneurs using (leveraging) their experience & contacts to get a leg up, but media is supposed to be objective and should look past this.
  2. This is the only approach which I can't blame tech media for; it is just incredibly difficult to be unique enough to stand out from all the other hundred stories that got pitched to that writer on any given day. The approach is flimsy and there's a massive amount of luck involved, yet for most online businesses this is the only shot they have.
  3. This is the easiest way to get covered in mainstream tech media: doesn't matter how shit your product or business is, raise funding from whoever (it can be your gran) and you're guaranteed coverage. The sheer amount of TechCrunch posts that reads "X raises $x million in funding for Y" proves that the mainstream tech media is loving itself some funding. Getting funded is not the same as succeeding & I think media can do a helluva lot better if they start celebrating the real successes, instead of those who's claim to fame is their funding round.

This isn't sour grapes and most definitely isn't me having a shot at TechCrunch. Yet I don't find myself agreeing with most of the supposed news that is covered by mainstream tech media (and as a result I prefer not to read it). I instead use my carefully crafted Twitter followers and Hacker News to filter out the shitty content (read: fundraising stories).

Beyond that, I have loads of sympathy for those businesses that are trying their utmost to be covered by mainstream tech media. WooThemes has been covered by TC once, even though we are almost 4 years old, have a user base that exceeds 50k, have proven, sustainable revenues and are still growing really well. My advice would just be to focus on building your business and doing cool shit; if that means you get covered, then awesome for you. :)

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