Posted by Jon Schubin on Thu, Feb 16 2017

All Posts by Jon Schubin

Why Reporters Don’t Care About Your Blockchain Startup

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It’s been a banner year for blockchain. Emerging from the shadow of bitcoin, the blockchain has been featured on the cover of the Economist, discussed at dozens of conferences and the topic of conversation on in-depth broadcast packages. There are about 120,000 search results for “blockchain is the future.”

It seems everyone is talking about is about distributed ledger technology in some context. So why, you may ask, does no one care about my blockchain startup?

Let’s look at the three reasons why even in the “age of blockchain,” some are falling behind.

You went outside your lane.

Just because a publication has used the word “blockchain” in recent news coverage, doesn’t mean that your particular application of blockchain technology is of interest to them. One magazine I have spent plenty of time discussing with my clients is Wired, which, considering Wired’s pedigree and reach, makes sense as a desirable media target. Owned by Conde Nast, Wired reaches an audience of 850,000 in print and another few million readers online.

It’s tempting to want to engage such a broad audience, but it also means that brands need a story that engages on a general level to match. Take a look at recent Wired headlines about blockchain: “Overstock Begins Trading Its Stock Via the Bitcoin Blockchain,” “Here's How IBM Is Planning to Use Its Own Blockchain Software,” “Why Wall Street Is Embracing the Blockchain—Its Biggest Threat.” These are general pieces with a large potential audience.

If your blockchain start up is quite specialized, consider making trade media relevant to that specialization a key part of media outreach. Chances are that your buyers also read this specialized media, and exposure there can be useful. When aiming higher, including mainstream business publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, make sure you have a broader angle.

A good example of this is a story we recently worked with one of clients, the cryptocurrency trade organization Coin Center, to place with Wired. The headline? “Dear Mr. Trump: To ‘Cyber’ Better, Try the Blockchain.”

You didn’t make a case for your company.

Blockchain is sometimes being used as a fig-leaf to hide iterative changes or even continuity from older business practices. Journalists are inundated with dozens of pitches on the ‘next big startup’ everyday, and have wised up to this practice.

Matt Levine of Bloomberg regularly makes fun of blockchain companies in his daily email. And anyone thinking that all publicity is good publicity should keep in mind these jokes – about firms who promise to do things like “streamlined proxy voting using blockchain technology” – are usually at the very end of his message.

Blockchain can no longer be the entirety or focus of a launch. The message of a “widget company to tap into blockchain,” doesn’t work. A company needs to explain why using the blockchain will deliver tangible results to a given user base.

And just using jargon like – “greater transparency” or “realizing efficiencies” is not enough of an explanation.

You duffed the launch

Technology is an industry of the new, and so the launch of a new product or a company is one of the most critical times to establish a narrative around a firm.

Subsequent articles about a company often reference or repeat the log line that developed when it first arrived – something that can drive Silicon Valley companies that then have to “pivot” absolutely bonkers.

The stakes of a launch mean it is critical to think about communications from the jump. Considering holding off the proper introduction of the product until it is complete, or at least out of alpha stages. Give journalists (and prospective) customers the full narrative, rather than a vague vision what you might be doing in a future with a vague timeline.

If you can’t score interest at the beginning, it will be that much harder to make people care about the rest of your product road map.

The word “blockchain” has reached the rarified, meme-filled air in which the word is used frequently but imprecisely. Just like “internet” and “digital,” the problem is not that blockchain means nothing, it is that is being used so often and in so many different contexts that people are confused about why it really matters.

There are great stories to be told around the blockchain. I have no doubt it will change lives, but for journalists, the key is to show them why what your company is doing with blockchain is worth their attention.

Fintech, Launch, Media,
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