Thank you Wade Roush for Asking the Right Questions

I love working with Wade Roush. Not only is he a great guy, he's a smart, serious and intelligent reporter. The only catch is that he is about 3 feet taller than I am, so I strain my neck looking up while talking to him. I may start bringing a step stool.

Today he offers up some great advice about how pitch him. Other reporters have done this in the past, but Wade's post is among the best I read and actually speaks to issues that are much broader than just him. He echoes much of what we hear from reporters all the time. I recently had conversations with several reporters from all different types of publications who may love the story we're pitching, but simply don't have time to do it. These range from those focusing in regional tech to national consumer. Fewer reporters are churning out more material with fewer resources. This leads to them find ways to limit where to focus.

Wade lays out some of his key questions. Below are his questions with my take right after. Over on his blog you can see his own explanations.

Has this company won the backing of reputable investors? This is really about third-party validation. If you're just someone with an idea that hasn't yet gone through some kind of business gauntlet, then it's hard for a journalist to take you seriously yet.

How truly differentiated is this company’s technology? For entrepreneurs this is often the most difficult to answer. From inside your technology looks different than anything else out there, but when you bring something to a reporter who gets pitched by 20 companies that look and sound just like yours, you need to have messaging in place that answers this question very well. You will stumble with this at first, but be willing to look deep and think about it.

Is this company offering a product or service that our audience would care about? I think this is more about the strategy behind your media and influencer relations program. Are you picking the right media audience? Did you create the right "pitch" for that audience? Are the readers of that publication people you truly need to reach?

Does this company have a team of articulate, charismatic founders or executives? One phrase: media training. Get it. Feel you need it? Contact us.

Does this company have a convincing business model? Oh the business model discussion. I cannot tell you how often I go to a pitch event, listen to the entrepreneur go through the whole pitch only to have the first question be: how are you going to make money? It's become so obvious that people actually laugh when it comes up. It's easier just to acknowledge and answer it up front. Though, as Wade points out: "I’m increasingly irritated by what I call the Twitter Answer: 'We’re focused for now on building a service that 200 million people will use, and later we’ll figure out some way to monetize it.'"

Is this company built to flip? Or simply to get the founders “acqhired” at Google, Facebook, or Twitter? Here in Boston I've seen frothy coverage of companies that I just don't fully understand. I look at their business and their technology and think "that's a not a company, that's an application." I'm not the only one, others seem to have the same opinion. But it's a good thing to think about as an entrepreneur in general. Are we really creating something that can stand alone? One of my favorite examples on the positive side of this question is Runkeeper, which started as an application and has evolved into a platform. Jason Jacobs isn't about creating a company that is born to flip, he created a company that has much more potential than that.


Why I'm Negative on Google Plus

I hate to be the one who brings a skunk to Google's party, but I'm not as bullish on Google Plus as the rest of the world. Yes, it's interesting and, in some cases, shows a remarkable touch for creating a wonderful user interface. Like others, I'm impressed with how you can put people in (asynchronous) circles. But people are finding even those to be a bit of a chore.

Facebook's biggest advantage right now is its utility. By utility I don't mean how I interact with software, but that it allows me to see information about people and companies I care about without much effort. When Amy Winehouse died this past weekend my Facebook feed lit up. Over on Google+ I saw a smattering of reaction, but really people were still talking about Google+.

In Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece about Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, he notes that Sandberg "would tell people that Facebook was a company driven by instinct and human relationships. The point, implicitly, was that Google was not."

Related back to Google+, it's beautiful and it has the social media elite excited by what it offers in terms of both control and design, but the big question is whether it gains the true utility.

Sure, it boasts plenty of users, but the big measure of any social network isn't the number of people who signed up, it's the number of times a day people share something. How many "shares" per person does it have? What types of information are likely to be shared? Apparently I'm not the only one noticing this. Apparently visitors are down over on Google+ as is the time on the site. Granted, this is still early and not indicative of much long-term. But it's still an interesting development for the site.

I sent a few friends invites thinking that with more people close to me I'd see more sharing. One put up one picture and commented how much easier it was than on Facebook. But then when she took a few days off her updates only showed up on Facebook. So for me to find out about her life, that's where I have to be. So long as that remains true, then my time on Google Plus remains limited as well.

My wife had the best comment of all. After looking at it for a few minutes she said "What do I do with it?" Frankly, after using Facebook and Twitter the answer should have been obvious. It wasn't. Keep in mind that what attracted her to Facebook was her friends, not just that they were using it, but that they were sharing information she wanted to know. Conversations around her would include "Oh, I saw on Facebook...."

Can this change? Certainly. But it's not going to be overnight, it will take years. Facebook is in place, unseating it isn't going to be easy.

Right now my social media diet includes a constantly running Twitter feed and regular checkins on Facebook (for an intermingling of personal information and news). If Google Plus doesn't build true utility, we'll end up waving goodbye.

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