Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Why I’m keeping my mouth shut

In my early days as a tech journo I was news editor of Computerworld Aus and then edited Network World Aus. In both those roles my constant frustration was trying to get CIOs/IT & Network Managers to talk about their really shit hot projects – the one’s that were really business shaping. Of course, no one wanted to talk about those because they were commercially sensitive. Even though it would have been good for their careers to do so, they had big, scary comms departments standing behind them with a whopping big stick should they ever overstep the mark.
I was then asked to take over IDG Australia’s channel title. Based on my previous experiences, I was expecting to be constantly knocking my head against a brick wall trying to get these IT resellers to open up about how they were making money. After all, why would you tell your opposition what you’re doing better than they are.

However, much to my surprise, these guys were open books. Firstly, they were fiercely proud of their businesses and by god if someone was willing to give them a platform to boast about it then they weren’t going to knock that back. Secondly getting a profile meant that it became easier to do deals/get credit terms/etc with distributors and vendors.

So it’s with a distinct feeling of deja vu that I look around the Web 2.0 blogosphere (which let’s face it, is mainly made up of people in the industry writing for other people in the industry) where every company has a blog and they’re remarkably open about talking up what their company is doing, even though much of the information I’d consider commercially sensitive.

It’s almost certainly for exactly the same reasons I discovered when channel reporting. 1) People are very proud of their creations and 2) Getting a name in the industry helps (except in this case it’s primarily with an eye to a flip).

The interactive nature of blogs, does lend itself to another potential benefit – feedback. If you can nurture feedback through this process, that of course is invaluable.

And btw, I include the whole beta phase within this concept. I see companies opening up their services long before they’re ready. Or else, not opening up their services, when in fact they should be ready to go public (Newsvine). I don’t understand either strategy. If you show off all your goodies before you’re ready to go large, then you’ve only got yourself to blame if someone else mimicks it and can put it into action before you do. If you go live but invite only and then someone steals your strategy and gets critical mass before you can, likewise.

Paul Montgomery, who actually inspired me to to have a crack at this when he wrote in a comment on one of my armchair critic posts something along the lines of ‘you’re all talk, no action’ has to be the master of using his blog and blog activity to promote himself and Tinfinger. Paul has been talking up Tinfinger long before he recently opened it up, ironically under the guise of being in ‘stealth mode’. His knack is to constantly reference Tinfinger, but primarily he does so in more general, thoughtful posts about the aggregator business, so it’s very subtle but effective.
The fact that Tinfinger recieved a pretty reasonable acquisition offer even before launch is proof of how well he’s done it.
All that said, I don’t buy into it. There’s a reason those big companies are so loathe to talk about the really good parts of their business. Time matters. It’s the one commodity you can’t buy. In particular, in the dot com business, time to critical mass is everything. And as far as I’m concerned every time you lift your skirt, you’re making your time to critical mass that much harder while making it easier for the other guy.

So I’m afraid, you’re not going to get a lot out of me, on the subject of aggregators, for instance. My recent post, Why Google News if Fatally Flawed is about as insightful as Squash will get on that topic. Which is hard because that post generated more traffic than any other post I’ve ever written, and I could quite easily write a series along the lines of Why Newsvine is Fatally Flawed, Why x.aggregator is Fatally Flawed.

Instead, I’ll be putting all of that reasoning and thought into our aggregator project and hopefully on launch it’ll do all the talking for me.

Filed under: Blogs, Corporate Comms

2 Responses

  1. Aww! C’mon Phil, come out and play with the rest of us kiddies. It’s nice out here in the sunshine!

    Seriously though, self-promotion for PR is not the primary reason behind me blogging. First off, if I didn’t write I’d go crazy, so it’s good therapy between soul-sapping coding sessions. Second, I honestly don’t think I know enough about this business to assume that I can come up with all the good ideas all by myself, so I’m doing it to stimulate discussion along subject areas I want to know more about, so that I can find out things from people with different perspective to me, not all of whom are my competitors. Third, this is a business in which you can not afford to be closed – if people in the industry think you’re trying to create something that is walled off in any way then you get crucified, so the best way to combat that is to be as open as possible. Fourth, some of my ideas are pretty wacky so they’re going to take a bit of time for the general public to understand, so the earlier I blog about them the more time people have to get used to them. Finally, one of the main ways to keep a project team happy is to have milestone press events so you can get that hit of adrenaline to your ego centre, something to which I’m not immune 🙂 .

  2. fredoh says:

    Here are some links that I believe will be interested

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