Confessions of a Tech Blogger – Part 1

This past week, a friend of mine from college reached out to me from halfway across the globe. He mentioned to me that he had launched a (pretty damn cool) startup and was seeking advice on how to get in touch with the tech press – TechCrunch, Mashable and the likes. This most definitely isn’t the first time a friend has reached out for this kind of advice. I figured a  number of people could benefit from it, so I’ll just post some of the questions and my answers here. This definitely isn’t completely comprehensive, but it’s my 2 cents on some of the basics…

Not another bedtime story.

If you go on Quora, there is tons of good information for individual publications. For example, “How to get your company covered on TechCrunch” curently has 15 answers. MG Siegler is leading the answer rankings with “Do something amazing, we’ll find you.” And while this is true, I have also found that a story can sometimes get hidden because an entrepreneur thinks they need to present their company in a more traditional fashion – like a standard press release on fundraising, a new product launch, etc.

Photo credit: Eric Rice

“Chickens playing FarmVille.”

The lovely Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who currently writes for Business Insider, published this article last week. I looked at caption below the picture and just broke out laughing. Really? But hey, it caught my eye. In the same way that the 9-year-old kid publishing magazines with MagMagz’s platform caught my attention. Often, I just want a more creative angle to present a product or a startup, rather than the old “this business does this” approach. If I can break a stereotype or turn a couple of heads with the title AND present the product at the same time, then I’m most likely in. Like the Italian entrepreneur that got funded in 19 days. Then again, don’t go forcing your cat to use your product just so some journalist can write about it. That’s just cheap.

Ride a wave.

In addition to classic announcements (fundraising, opening an international office, etc.), it’s also interesting to cover startups that are part of a larger trend. For example, if your product is related to Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Zynga, etc. Ok, honestly, this gets old after a while. More Groupon clones or French dating sites, anyone? If you’re riding a wave and we’ve already talked about the market quite a bit, your product better be rather innovative or have something special. Simply being a copycat (unless you have killer traction) will not retain my attention very long.

I say “exclusive”, you say “exclusive”.

The way you give the journalist the information is perhaps just as important, if not more important, than the information itself. “Exclusive” is perhaps a journalist’s favorite word. If you’re a little startup and you have a good story, consider allowing one or two of your favorite journalists to publish the story before the others. It probably sounds really basic but if I can publish or provide content that is not available elsewhere, then I am a happy blogger. It’s as simple as that. Consider being precise about the date AND the time of publication as well – and make sure it works for the journalist. Just as an FYI, there are some subjects that I won’t cover unless I have an exclusive. Then again, if it isn’t really hot news, adding an “exclusive” to pitch journalists won’t really get you very far…

If you poke me on Facebook, I probably won’t write about you.

Even though it may not always seem like it, bloggers are people, too. I actually would like to have a personal as well as professional use of various technologies and platforms – just like everyone else. Therefore, I have made it very clear that you can contact me via email, Linkedin, Twitter…even Quora. If we are already friends on Facebook, by all means, shoot me a message if you have info to share. But if I don’t know you and you are trying to contact me on Facebook to pitch a story, my reply will ALWAYS be “email me.” Oh, and please don’t poke me to get my attention on Facebook for an article. That’s just unprofessional (and you run the risk of me publishing something about it in an article, if I write one).

Opinionated.

Once again, this seems rather obvious but I cannot stress it enough; know the journalist you are pitching to. This means not only the subjects they like to write about but also how they are likely to present them. I have had people pitch me things that are not really in the editorial line of TechCrunch (matresses made in Greece, a Chinese wine producer…). And just because your company now has an iPhone application doesn’t mean that you belong on a tech blog (unless your application physically makes coffee – if that is the case please email me ASAP). But even within the same publication, different journalists have different preferences and topics they’re comfortable with. To give you a good example, Michael Arrington and I are probably not likely to write about France in a similar way.

Blogging in the real-time.

Blogs are different from other media because they are perhaps one of the most real-time sources of information. And they are an interactive media. So, clearly avoid snailmail, unless it is your product and there is no other way to send it. When you send information via email, consider including additional media that would be relevant other than just text: links, videos, images, screen shots. And don’t hesitate to send updates after the article is published – they can always be modified and added to.

Be nice…and realistic.

I saw the above question and thought that it is just ridiculous to ask this kind of question. Do journalists go around crowning the “worst entrepreneurs” ? I know I don’t. Journalists make mistakes. It happens. Some of us even write in a language that is not our native language. If you need to make a correction, be polite about it.

“We don’t have any competitors, either.”

I’m not even going to tell you the number of times I have been told by an entrepreneur that he or she has no competitors. It kind of baffles me. I wrote an article once where I talked about a new French startup and it’s VERY HOT competitor – and the startup was not particularly pleased. WTF? What better than to be compared to the one of the hottest companies?! If I compared you to Apple or Facebook would you be upset? And if I didn’t draw the comparison in my article, my readers would clearly point it out in the comments anyway. No need to pretend.

When I ask the question, I am not doing it to undermine the business of the entrepreneur but rather to have a better understanding of the product and the market. At the end of the day, I am going to include a few competitors in the article regardless. If names are not provided by the entrepreneur, I will include names that I feel are appropriate. Therefore, if the entrepreneur has a certain explanation as to why or why not his or her startup may be a competitor of certain companies and not others, it is definitely worth explaining rather than avoiding the question.

Survey says…

Hopefully some of this information was relatively helpful. If you have any questions, comments, concerns or complaints, don’t hesitate to include them in the comments.

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Le Best Of: French Tech Blogs

I’ve had quite a few non-French people contact me regarding the best tech blogs and news outlets in the French technosphere. As my Twitter lists are far from being up-to-date (they will be soon!) I thought I’d put a few names to know here.

French Blogs 101.

First off, one very simple way to find out what’s out there and what’s being read is à la Technorati, via Wikio’s rankings (done according to number of links to the blog and apparently retweets as of June 2010).

But let me highlight a few of my favorites/names to know that are perhaps less-known outside of France (in absolutely no order whatsoever)…

Electron Libre @3l3ctr0nlibr3)

A really super blog about hi-tech, media and culture. You’ll get everything from Microsoft’s latest adventure to what Italy’s Berlusconi’s been up to – with a little twist of what’s been going on with French music start-ups.

Korben (@korben)

The best of geekdom, seriously. Korben will publish anything from a possible wannabe Social Network Google Movie (yawn) to a video game that lets girls beat up men who hit on them (yeowza). Honestly, it’s hardcore tech with a terrific twist of entertainment.

Presse Citron (@pressecitron)

Presse Citron is another blog at the peak of tech – but with more of a newsy flavor. Main topics span from the next best Twitter-based service to the war between printed versus electronic books. Definitely a must-know blog for France’s tech space.

Frenchweb.fr (@Frenchweb)

Tech and start-up news – and not just for the French tech space! Groupon acquisitions, Facebook Places launch, you name it, it’s all there. Plus, there are tons of terrific interviews with local entrepreneurs – and foreign ones too. Not a blog to overlook.

Blogomania.

And of course there are TONS I didn’t mention. You’ve also got your local ReadWriteWeb France, Mashable France – oh, and TechCrunch France. Obviously. 🙂 Ya, ok, there are obviously many more worthwhile blogs/online media publications I didn’t cover – especially for hi-tech and start-up news  (VendeDesign, Journal du Net, Journal du Geek, Accessoweb, JeanMarieGall, etc.). By no means does it mean that I don’t read them or find them insanely well done. The French tech space is FULL of bloggers.

Bonjour, je m’appelle geek.

There are also some local tech experts that have their own blogs and are really worth knowing – I’m thinking of Olivier Ezratty and Jean-François Ruiz’s WebDeux, but there are certainly more. I also really love when I come across entrepreneurs that have blogs as well. I’ve seen some really fabulous ones – but perhaps my all-time favorite is that of Submate founder, Laurent Kretz (yes, it’s in English!). Oh, and it looks like Netvibes and Jolicloud founder, Tariq Krim, may be back to blogging as well. THAT would be something.

And the girliest geek blog award goes to…

GamonGirls. I love the initiative. Yoda USB keys, iPhone news, gadgets, blah blah blah – all that with a hint of pink. Thank God it’s more serious tech and less like that horrible Valley Girl show. Don’t get me started.

By the way, anyone recognize the host ? Hint: DFJ.

Don’t be MIA.

I am not even going to try and pretend this list is anywhere near exhaustive. If you’ve got a killer blog about tech and startups in France, PLEASE add the URL below with a brief description of exactly what you cover and in what language. Merci!