Why I Didn’t Cover Your Startup

Allow me to answer a question I’m sure you’ve been dying to ask but have to much tact to shoot at me point-blank: Why didn’t I cover your startup? [tweetmeme source=”jolieodell” only_single=false]

You have a website or a web or mobile app.

You launched today/this week/this month. Or you made some feature changes. Or you announced a partnership.

You and about 50 other companies.

As I’m sure you’re aware, this is a competitive market. Not just competitive in terms of getting press — fuck press. It’s cutthroat in terms of getting customers, advertisers, investors, someone/anyone to foot the bill for your brilliant idea.

And I don’t say that sarcastically. Most of the time, your ideas are actually quite excellent.

It’s just that there are so many of them. And so many of you. And you all want my attention. My full attention followed by my immediate action. And you want it right now. Or tomorrow morning. Or next week when your site launches and your embargo lifts.

You like math? Let’s try a word problem.

  • If 50-75 of you email me two or three times each in a single week, as you often do, that adds up to roughly 150 emails. If I take 5 minutes to read each one, go over the attached press release, and check out the screen shots, that eats up 12.5 hours.
  • If I wrote a blog post about 20% of you — that’s just 10 companies — I would normally take about 2 hours to research your company, check out your funding situation, find out who your founders are, test your app, grab some screenshots, look up your competitors, research any other coverage you’ve gotten, and a few other under-the-hood maneuvers. That adds up to 20 hours of work, about half my work week’s worth of hours.
  • If I investigate the products of a further 50% of you, spending just 15 minutes on the website of each company, that takes another hour a day or so.
  • All in all, if I let them, startups would take up so much of my time that I’d have just one hour a week to answer emails, write about big tech company news from Google or Facebook, edit the videos I’ve been shooting all week, take meetings with my colleagues at Mashable, write features about web development or mobile apps or open-source software, cover and speak at conferences, and all the million other tasks I have to do as a journalist.

Let’s get real: That schedule doesn’t work for me.

I love startups, but Mashable is not a startup blog. I’m not a startup journalist. I can’t devote as much time or energy as you want me to on startups. (If I worked at VentureBeat, the entire situation would be different.)

When I do decide to allocate some of my personal resources toward startups, I make my decision largely based on what will perform well on Mashable. That’s probably not going to be an enterprise product or a $500K Series A for an app with 100,000 users. We spend a lot of time in our editorial chat room trying to figure out which news items will make the cut on any given day, so I’m not alone when making these decisions, either.

So, in the interest of hard, cold reality, this is why I didn’t cover your startup. It has nothing to do with how good your product is, how persistent you are in emailing me, how much I am posting on any site on any given day, whether or not I covered your competitor, or any such factors.

It comes down to two things: I don’t have the time, and it’s not right for Mashable.

But, and this is crucial to note, just because I didn’t cover you today doesn’t mean I’ll never write about you. Ask Forrst. Ask Brightkite. Ask a dozen or more startups that thought they were at the bottom of my email’s dustbin when their post hit Mashable. Sometimes, I really want to cover you but I need to wait for a rainy day when I have some more bandwidth.

Mashable isn’t the end-all-be-all for you, though. Yes, it’s a huge blog — the biggest tech blog on the web. But that doesn’t mean that Mashable coverage is the best you can do for your app. Reach out to niche publications and individual influencers. Reach out to ReadWriteStart, VentureBeat, and other startup-specific blogs. Reach out to someone who cares about your specific vertical, be it security, enterprise email, whatever. But when you reach out, focus on just a few people, and focus on people you know will care about what you’re doing.

Finally, because I really, truly do love startups and would love to be able to cover them all, I’ve started highlighting every piece of news that people tweet at me, message me about, or email to me. This happens once or twice a week on my personal blog. If you want to pitch me, you can pitch me here. If you land on the Jolie O’Dell blog instead of Mashable, I really pray you’ll understand that I still think you’ve got a great idea and would love to help you out.

Also, if you apply for Mashable’s startup series, those pitches get special consideration in the deluge of emails we receive each day. We cover one startup per day, Monday through Friday.

Thanks for reading, thanks for pitching, and I love you guys and wish you every kind of success.

27 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Cover Your Startup

      • I’d say it’s not that different for my writers than it is for you and your colleagues at Mashable. There are more startups seeking our attention than we can write about. The difference lies in how we filter pitches. For example, we make a strenuous effort to cover every significant funding in Silicon Valley, across a wider range of sectors than most tech-news sites focus on. But I may well end up suggesting that a consumer-Internet play with incremental product news pitch Mashable instead. I’d rather help a startup find the right home for a story than do VentureBeat readers a disservice with an off-topic article.

  1. Hey jolie,
    I am someone working at a Startup (WorkingPoint) and trying to get a mention anywhere I can (I call myself community outreach) but I just want you to know, at least for myself and hopefully a few others out there who aren’t crazy, that I know and I still love you! I hope someday that you’ll be so excited about the banking integration or our millionth subscriber or whatever and write about us, but I know that we are aggressive, self important, desperate bunch of stalkers and I have no idea how you tolerate us!

    P.S. loved loved the break up on Facebook article 🙂

    • Haha, Dena, you’ve got a great sense of humor… ” aggressive, self important, desperate bunch of stalkers” is a great line. =)

      That’s not exactly how I’d phrase it, because I really do see the urgent need to get the word out about your company. Don’t stop believin’!

      • You have to be able to laugh at yourself! It would be an honor to be written about by my favorite tech writer (that’s a tie between you and Matt Silverman, not going to lie) but I don’t think you should write about me just because I am a start up!

        I think you should write about me because not writing about me will undercut your credibility as a journalist… what we’re doing is so cool/cutting edge/useful/cure for cancer that not spreading the word would be a travesty to mankind.

        Which is why I am waiting to stalk you guys until we launch that feature that will put us there 🙂

  2. Great post! Looks super from iPhone too! PS Our startup cured cancer and the common cold yesterday! Professional negligence not to cover us… Wha…? Ouch! Just sayin! No hit. No hit! Ok. ok. sorrryyyyyy. ;)))

    Seriously, though, we’re smarter than we look and we get it. Most of us are not the mega funded. Indeed, we’re generally wearing too many hats and have no lives. We eat and sleep at or very near our desks. So we totally get workday supply and demand.


  3. I’ve pitched Mashable. Long before I knew better. Long before I met Ben or you or even Pete. Now I know better. You see, work (mostly) with enterprise product offerings and that doesn’t work on the Mash (that’s what we in the industry call it, “The Mash”) like it does elsewhere. So I don’t pitch Mashable any more.

    Unless it has the potential to impact direct-to-consumer interest. Then it’s game on… I wish that as PR people, we could get to spend about an hour on the editorial chats that you and other Web pubs have. The insight that could be gained from that would be amazing…

    FYI: The site looks good on IE as well 😉

  4. The other thing I would add as a developer at a consumer startup that has been covered in TechCrunch and Mashable several times is that the traffic is a nice pat on the back, but it does nothing for the long term growth of your startup. The reason is because people reading these blogs are looking for the hot new thing, they most likely aren’t your target market and won’t stick around… unless you’re trying to be the next Twitter, in which case good luck because that’s where competition is fiercest and the customers most fickle.

    • Exactly.

      Press only counts for so much — in the end, it can be a sort of “leg up,” but the momentum can prove short-lived if all other factors aren’t working in your favor, too.

  5. Nice post. I like the math of it, so let us make some small probability math for a chance (probability) to be covered……lol, I won’t bore you with that, but the odds look very good, so don’t worry I’ll keep stalking you….just kidding.
    Indeed a nice post, it helps one to understand what going on at your end, I guess most of the peoples can’t imagine how it feels like receiving a bunch of emails everyday, all asking for your attention, but I also think many peoples unfortunately don’t care about that, they are just desperate to get the word out, so they try everything and of course, many of us think we have the latest hottest startup, mashable/ You just can’t afford not to cover, and that’s just the passion peoples have about their products/startups, and they need this kind of passion if they want to make it worth all the pain, but at the other hand, it should be clear to everyone that mashable/you are just one way to get the word out there (it seesm to be the easiest one at the first look) , but there are many other ways to try to get the word out, of course most harder.

    If I have to choose between stalking You to write about my startup and doing my SEO and reaching out to niche bloggers, I’ll choose the second path, it’s less annoying and most respectful, but of course if I have to choose stalking you for a dinner , it’ll be something different! Anyway, the probability says, I should keep an eye on Mashable for a coverage, so that’s pure Maths, 😉 . Nice Article, and thanks for the insider View.

  6. While I totally get your logic here, and I understand that there are only so many hours in a day but thousands of start-ups, the weakness in the position is that all this being true — we still tend to see the same handful of articles about the same handful of companies over and over and over again (I’m not saying you do this, I’m saying in general).

    That leads people in startups who are busting their balls to create something new and valuable to think journalists are just being lazy. They don’t see the hardwork they put into their product getting it’s due on the other end of the funnel. Instead they see the press being followers not leaders — just jumping on trends and feeding them until they die, then jumping to the next one. As you put it, having to be concerned mostly with what will “perform well on Mashable.” or whatever site, and less concerned about digging up hidden gems that the mass attention span has skipped over tends to cause some frustration on the part of people actual trying to create new things (and not all things being created are valuable — which is the other part of your job, to know the difference, i.e. the capacity to discern and edit).

    So thats the disconnect between your real problem of limited hours with the perception (and sometimes reality) that so much of what is posted to the various tech sites is just the same old shit in different clothes.

    Ex: Right now on mashable I don’t see any real journalism. It’s all reactionary stuff about iPhone 4. Nothing is being discovered, it’s just being repurposed. If you want to call yourself a journalist, then you need to discover, report, and clarify.

    Anyway, just my thoughts.

  7. Jolie,

    I think I’ve found a new blog to follow. This is the type of information most startups (ours included) are ignorant on, and there’s not a whole lot of time spent on letting people know ‘how things work’.

    Loved the directness, loved the honesty. (and definitely love the colors in your gravatar!)

  8. Great article! We’re discussing it a bit in the work chat channel. I’m a developer who’s dumb enough to be a publisher-of-songs and performer, and I’m struck by how well most of the concerns you’ve outlined here apply to that completely different scenario. In particular, one can basically pour an enormous amount of energy down the PR black hole with the only result being (beyond a lowering of one’s confidence) just a lot of wasted time for the people receiving your efforts, beyond your own wasted time.

    This bit to me seems clutch in just about every PR scenario:

    Reach out to someone who cares about your specific vertical, be it security, enterprise email, whatever. But when you reach out, focus on just a few people, and focus on people you know will care about what you’re doing.

  9. I think that just about meets all the criteria for Tough Love!

    I’ll be trying a pitch out shortly anyway. I can’t help myself. I think its called Moth Syndrome…

  10. This is a very interesting article.

    These are things I believe many online entrepreneurs online fight with. Many people claimed that with the advent of the Internet we’d have the democratization of information, but it’s like we’re back to square one having to go through online gatekeepers again like iTunes, popular blogs, etc.

    There are new gatekeepers online like there are on radio and television, but there is one difference.

    Gatekeepers online can never stop someone from continuing to hustle to spread the word about his product, passion, service or love for anything.

    As a techie myself, let’s stop whining and just keep hustling.

    No one can kill you’re stride except you, yourself. Don’t stop just because it’s hard. Don’t stop until you get what you want. Don’t stop because if you believe in your work, you believe in working your ass off to spread it to the world. If not, then no one else will think it’s of any value either.

    I used to get a little hurt that journalists missed the mark on things I wanted to share but now it doesn’t bother me because I realize all the crap they have to filter. I realize there’s more to do whether or not they catch it in the moment.

    Even worse, mainstream news is always behind the times. They think they’re catching what’s hot now but they’re only catching what was hot, except for the hardcore journalists who have a good eye and are ahead of the game. So they’ll probably catch you when you’re hot – not now so just keep moving. Move until they notice down the road. Then they may approach you for the interview.

    As an entrepreneur you shouldn’t stop moving, or else you’ve given up on yourself, not because a single person simply failed to look at your product.

    Thanks for sharing Jolie.


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