in on blogging

bitchin’ blog (beta isn’t a marketing phase)

Beta

Recently I’ve been bothered by the fact that, in general, bloggers are either too lazy or too nice.

You (person with startup/new service) email a bunch of bloggers and give them ‘special access’ to information about your project, or a beta invitation. Said blogger then either feels obliged to give you a plug (more often than not just your products name, your cute 2.0 logo and the briefest of brief descriptions with an instructions for you to either check it out or wait to find out more.

Having been the recipient of a few of these previews and invitations lately, and even just checking out new services I pick up from other people’s blogs … I find myself in a bit of a quandry.

Does Mum’s Principle apply here? (If you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing at all).

I wouldn’t have thought so, but then… that being the case, why are so many others being so damn nice?!

Perhaps it’s because they’re worried that if people get the idea that they’re actually going to critically review a product, their beta invitations will dry up. And then they won’t be able to speak authoratively on the next new release. They’ll be seen as too risky, particularly by those people with half baked ideas and poorly executed products and services.

Quite rightly too, perhaps.

Recently I reviewed a service launching in the next week or so, and – frankly, I was pretty disappointed with what I saw. Rather than post a negative review, I sent through some feedback via email and asked them to confirm that my take on their service was correct, and noted that I hadn’t posted a review on my blog. I wrote:

If you’re happy for me to blog this, let me know. Similarly, pls feel free to ask if there’s anything here that isn’t clear and you want me to clarify (or if I’ve completely missed the point!)

What a pussy. I feel pretty dumb for doing that now. Especially since they haven’t taken the time to acknowledge my feedback in anyway… not a quick email saying thanks, not fixing the most simple bug that I’d noticed (I’m starting to get really annoyed with services that don’t work for Australians – this one required a ‘zip code’ with 5 digits. We only have 4 here. And Blogbeat still don’t have a timezone option for Sydney!)

I notice they do, of course, have time to update their blogs with links to the positive reviews… or, mostly, those reviews that simply announce the upcoming launch where the blogger probably hasn’t even bothered to look at the beta site.

Argh. And this comes from someone you’ve probably heard of. A name I’ve seen thrown around the blogosphere a fair bit. Someone who should know better. (Although, of course, I’ve not met them, so I don’t really know this. And I’m sure they’re *really* busy with their launch. Disclaimer, disclaimer.)

A guy from Melbourne emailed me a while back wanting to ‘generate some noise’ about his upcoming beta. All he had for me was a logo and a word document. He couldn’t even give me a screenshot. He couldn’t answer any specific questions about what on earth his product was going to add to the world and why we needed it when there were other nicely designed and well used applications doing much the same thing.

Eh. I should have caned him too. But I was operating on Mum’s Principle.

Well. Enough of that. (Sorry Mum).

From now on, if I’m going to spend the time reviewing something then the results are going up here. The good and the bad. Afterall, any publicity is good publicity, right?

And that way, at least, you can trust that I’ve really spent some time looking at and thinking about your product.

After all – that’s what a Beta phase is all about. Getting rid of the last bugs and fine tuning the application for its audience. Marketing is, actually, just a by product.

We’d all do well to remember that.

Image Credit: Delicious Library Beta Splash Page via Ars Technica

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  1. Yeah, you’re on the right track. Lots of companies have taken heed of on Guy Kawasaki’s advice on “how to suck up to a blogger” (see my relevant link), which tends to be a good thing. Respect begets respect. However, bloggers are perhaps the most vocal and early adopting people around, if companies don’t follow through and just spam us, then it’s going to hurt them bad… really bad.

  2. hey Kevin,

    thanks for the feedback :)

    I’m all for sucking up to bloggers :) but, if bloggers don’t remain an authentic and independent voice and instead become a ‘mouthpiece’ for companies so as to ensure access to all the cool beta’s, then it totally compromises our place in the ‘new’ marketing landscape/conversation.

  3. Only blog about it if you think you have something to say about them. Sounds simple huh :)

    Meaning, don’t blog about a company for the sake of it but blog because they are doing something really well or really badly. Especially in the beta stage, feedback is crucial and if the company is smart, they’ll respect that.

    Also, often good to check about whether you can even actually blog about the service because quite a few beta’s I’ve checked out have specifically stated that it’s to be blogged about.

  4. I’ve been getting quite a few of these too and I’m not sure exactly what to do with them. So far, I’ve stuck them in gmail with the label “someday” in case I ever get bored and decide I want to spend time playing around with some of them. But I don’t feel compelled to write about them. I figure TechCrunch has that beat covered.

    Thanks for bringing it up–this has been on my mind lately.

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