If You Want News, Focus On The Product

Over the past year I’ve taken various roles in and around various products. I’ve seen, advised on, and been part of the main issue. Companies want news, but they don’t do anything newsworthy. Why the hell does anyone want to write about what you did 6 months ago? 3 months ago? Even last month?

The fact of the matter, in my experience, and my observation is unless you do something on the product side, good or bad, or have some clout you aren’t going to get news. There is a factor of your scale as well, as some sources tend to focus on the larger stable companies and products, which is partly due to the advantage of inertia and size. I’m going to mostly ignore that though and point out product problems I’ve encountered.

I know that there are products that can get by successfully only doing data processing, primarily when offered as a business service. Unfortunately, it’s common to see stagnation or failure in the consumer area because it has pretty low barriers to entry, and often times lower consumer value. I’ve got no problems if this is how you want to start and test a market. As you grow you’ll need to either be so awesome the user wants to keep using it or have another reason for the user to interact with the site.

If you only handle data from one service, that’s great, but why aren’t you handling data from more? Only Twitter or Facebook, why don’t you add the other one to your sources, even better try and get in and add Google +, while it’s still early and/or hot. You are self-limiting and become susceptible to your source’s actions. Free yourself from the dependence, through wider integration plans. Even better, add your own system that can be used without the external dependence, giving yourself more control on the data you want, a protection from external forces, and a possible pivot point.This doesn’t mean you need your system to be the primary, but having it is a good thing.

I’ve had several minor rows with people over this in the past. Often times they aren’t in a position to change it. Once, I was in the only actual position to change it, but it wasn’t what was planned or wanted; I should have done it, anyways. You’ve got to just do it.

Another issue, I’ve had was trying to push a dev issue, that was a roadblock to the companies API. Yes, they offered a public API, but as a consumer data-processing, they neglected some key functionality required for 3rd-parties to offer clients, while also being completely absent from a huge market. I had jumped in to try and help build a client not realizing the issue when I started. Once I found it though, after a few weeks work, I sent several emails and had a discussion with a non-technical person to try and get the issue fixed. I received no replies, aside from the non-technical person, even when I stepped out of the support chain and contacted a developer explicitly. I gave up after a few weeks of trying to get a response. I still support this company’s mission, and wish them all the best.

A big one that killed my big project I was working on at the beginning of the year was that the team had no focus. We were all on different pages, and sometimes there was a delay in one area, or someone pushing hard in areas that wasn’t necessary at the time. Getting off the rails and trying to keep going further is a recipe for disaster. If you fall off of a clear path, collect yourselves, lock-in what needs done, and focus on your goal. Also, don’t let what you’re doing be driven by press reasons, that’s the wrong place to focus and will have you running everywhere.

While I wish I could say that I haven’t and won’t again make any of these mistakes, I can’t. I will absolutely try, and they are things I don’t want to forget because they cost me a lot of time, energy, and passion. When it comes down to it you’ve just got to focus on the product.

  • Problem #1: You’re just a data-processing company.
  • Problem #2: Developers aren’t involved in technical support.
  • Problem #3: Your team doesn’t have the same goals or reasons.