December 17, 2008 |
I could never really understand what makes both startups and established internet companies announce upcoming services or products way before they are actually supposed to be available to users. I often get emails with “scoops” from startups but usually I try to reply politely that I will be happy to cover the announcement (if I like the company and what it does) when our readers will be able to use the new product or service as it does not make sense to do otherwise. The only exception is when I get some invites to a closed service that my readers could be happy to grab.
The reason for me to do so is quite simple as if I cover the news and clearly state that the product will be announced on this or that day next week, I will usually have a number of disappointed readers who will leave comments about how bad it is that they can’t use the service right away and a number of angry comments as well from people who can’t read any post entirely and rush to try the new service out as soon as they reach the hyperlink.
Of course I will not be happy to get such comments but the most disturbing thing is that it will probably do no good to the company either as neither commenter will actually remember to return and check the new service out when it is actually available. Really, you don’t expect people to create a special task in their to-do application to check your site out when it is available?
This is also why I usually support embargoed announcements as they both give me time to prepare my coverage and I also know exactly what time my readers will be able to access the product I describe in the post (and this is exactly why I don’t understand why some bloggers prefer to break embargoes and send their readers to a site that is not even working yet).
Besides, an addition reason for me (and other bloggers) to dislike the scoops that startups are so willing to share is that they are usually nothing but small things the teams pretend are big – and since they realize quite well they will probably get no coverage for such news at all, they try to target one blogger with a scoop in hopes to get at least something.
The problem that such companies making big announcements first and introducing actual products or services later don’t seem to realize is that publishers are usually mostly concerned with what our readers will be willing to read and delivering value to our readers – not helping companies get some more visibility. And visibility will arrive pretty soon if we believe that your product or service is worth attention of our readers. If it is not, no scoop will help it – unless it comes from Google or Apple as these are two companies that seem to be interesting to people even if they promise something exciting instead of delivering something exciting.
Yahoo is also a huge company that seems to abuse this approach pretty often but with much less success and yesterday’s announcement of the new “smarter” inbox in Yahoo Mail will probably be a good lesson for them to try and avoid disappointing the users.
For those of you who missed yesterday’s news (which was pretty big with bloggers as many of them attended the press event Yahoo organized for the announcement), the internet company has introduced a more open approach to its services and made a special emphasis on Yahoo Mail where there will be a number of third-party applications available soon.
The problem is while bloggers saw the presentation yesterday and described the functionality we are supposed to see with WordPress or Flickr application running in the sidebar of our Yahoo Mail inboxes, many of the readers did not pay attention to the remarks about availability of the newly announced services. In fact, the US and Australian users only got some very limited functionality related to the new notion of Yahoo connections while the rest of the world got nothing at all – only the shiny and new promises from Yahoo. So we will have to wait for a pretty long time as the new features are only scheduled to be rolled out to everyone in the first half of 2009.
I can imagine the number of people who checked their Yahoo Mail accounts to see what the “smarter” inbox might mean and left disappointed about seeing no changes at all. And if there’s anything bad a company can do is disappoint people after they rush to them to try out the new beautiful things they are promised to get.
But this was exactly what Yahoo did yesterday with all the users leaving in frustration, some of them also bothering to leave angry comments about the promised functionality not working for them on the company’s blog. And today Yahoo simply had to introduce a new “Oops” page designed specifically to explain people that the new functionality is in closed beta testing and inviting everyone interested to let Yahoo know our emails so that we could participate in the beta testing when Yahoo is able to let people in.
Honestly, I have a feeling that Yahoo is not in the right position for the company to spoil such important and strategic announcements for their loyal users, some of them dying to get their hands on the new features – and getting nothing but the opportunity to participate in the beta testing at some point in the future. I have a feeling that it is really not fair to the users and could further damage the company’s image that is not all that bright anyway. So why not do something first instead of keeping promising cool things to come without showing to the real people?