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Uneven coverage dooms start-ups not begun by the 250

Read/Write Web had a great post the other day by Josh Catone where he discusses the uneven coverage of Internet start-ups. Josh essentially indicates that if you don’t know someone (join the 250!) then you basically don’t get a lot of press coverage. Josh observes that many start-ups get left out of publications because they don’t have the right investors or know the right people or generate the appropriate buzz out of the gate.

This is certainly something Cogmap has struggled with. When we launched free private maps, VentureBeat wrote an article. Other than that, despite personal emails to many prominent Web 2.0 news blogs, there was basically zero coverage. TechCrunch covered OrgPlus when they launched a similar service with a hefty per month price tag and never even mentioned other players in the market. Is that indicative of the better PR firm they hired?

I actually assume that it was more a product of completely random outcomes. They get a million press releases, they are in such a rush to get the news out due to pressure of the blogosphere, and they are under-resourced, so they don’t have time to be comprehensive, or make sure things are “fair”. As Josh indicates, he has to make a call every time he is asked to cover something and it turns into his whim. Essentially, if you catch him on a good day or a slow day or he likes you, the odds of coverage go up. How do you get on the list of similar services if he doesn’t know you? Luck. Well-known investors?

Everyone agrees investors play a key role in coverage. You can actually have media invest in you these days! Arrington invests. Calcanis has the ability to generate media coverage and invests. Even Fred Wilson has his own popular media vehicle and his association is an imprimatur of start-up savvy-ness. Ironically, after millions of blog posts discussing how cheap it is to build a start-up using today’s technology, the challenge of getting media coverage even if you build the better mousetrap continues to exist – although there is no doubt that the cost has come down in some ways, an email to TechCrunch can get you hundreds of thousands of visitors. Now the challenge is having a relationship that allows you entry. You no longer have to be a rich kid to be in the cool clique, but you still have to be cool!

As my friends would say, that basically dooms me.

Unfortunately, Josh does not offer a prescription for this challenge. Now that he has recognized this shortcoming in his coverage of start-ups, what will he do? What should he do? What should the industry do? Maybe the answer is to be Scoble: Cover everything all the time, writing millions of posts per day.

Would love to see how more people think about addressing this problem, particularly as bias in media outlets becomes a bigger problem (see Techcrunch).

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