The Most Popular Article on TechCrunch
My app got some press, and here’s what I learned
On April 26, my speed-listening app Rightspeed was picked up by TechCrunch, and quickly became the most popular article on the site (although, the top spot was short-lived). Following the TC article, things got pretty crazy…
Within the first hour, the article was shared over 800 times. LifeHacker and Product Hunt quickly followed up with their own coverage. The TechCrunch piece got reposted to dozens of tech blogs (who knew there were so many reposters out there?). And downloads went insane (…insane for a $2.99 app).
In the past 48 hours, as a result of the TechCrunch article, I’ve learned a lot about product launches. In the spirit of documenting the entire Rightspeed process, I want to share a few of the things I’ve learned.
1. Journalists will forgive a great story
Right out of the gate, I screwed up. Apparently, you’re supposed to contact press before you launch your product. I waited nearly 5 days after launching before I reached out to TechCrunch.
Within 9 minutes of emailing TC-writer Haje, I got this reply: “The app has been live for about a week now — what’s new?”.
Oh. I didn’t realize that would be a problem.
Not only is Haje a TechCrunch writer, but he’s also a bit of a “Getting Press for Your Startup” guru (via his very popular Medium post on the subject). Here’s a line from his post that I wasn’t happy reading:
“If the [release] date is more than 5 days ago, the press pack will probably go straight in the bin.”
Luckily, he said “probably” — and I think I figured out the loophole: A really good story (in the form of a “flippin’ great pitch”).
Here’s the pitch…
My guess is that this pitch succeeded, not because of the formatting or the links, but because Haje could envision the final story with essentially zero effort (i.e. “Listen to audiobooks/podcasts at ridiculously fast speeds”).
It’s not a tech writer’s job to find the narrative in your product — It’s your job to tell them. The writer’s job is to curate the “interesting” stories, and then dress them up with some good old-fashioned wordsmithing.
My simple story in the email, complemented by my detail-oriented Medium post “I Built a Speed-Listening App”, gave Haje the perfect ammunition to crank out a story (and he did it super fast).
Lesson learned: If you can’t easily tell your product’s story in one crisp headline, keep working on it. Because if you can get there, you will most likely be forgiven for all other PR formalities that you completely miss (like reaching out to journalists a week late).
Side note: Usually a great story is built from the beginning — by building a great product with a clear identity and mission. If you are having trouble writing a headline, you should give more thought to your product’s identity, not your marketing campaign.
2. Customers will forgive a great product
Rightspeed has a few clear deficiencies, which I detail in my previous article.
The short version: In order to add audiobooks or podcasts to Rightspeed, you need to connect your phone, with a cord, to your computer. And then once you do, Rightspeed only works with non-encrypted/non-DRM audio, which means Audible books, for example, aren’t supported. (Unless you purchase an Audible to MP3 converter online — which Audible definitely doesn’t promote).
And yet, after detailing these shortcomings to potential Rightspeeder David via email, I received this response:
Ignoring the Dropbox bit for now (we will get to it later), here’s what I found interesting:
- Even though adding audio to Rightspeed is fairly involved, Rightspeed’s core speed-listening features completely justified the purchase of the app on their own. The good stuff makes the bad stuff “worth the effort”.
- Because the Rightspeed concept resonated with David, he was willing to buy the app solely to support Rightspeed’s vision and the future.
In other words, people will forgive you for incomplete functionality and missing integrations, as long as you make the core part of your product awesome.
And, if it’s awesome, people will notice…
Side note: I see Rightspeed’s current “deficiencies” as opportunities. So, things can only get better from here. Stay tuned.
3. Care about your customers
Soon after launch, I received this not-so-positive comment on my original Medium post:
Ouch. It’s never fun to disappoint a customer — especially when all of his points are valid. I definitely don’t want to trick people into buying my app (hence my obsessiveness with documenting this process).
I wanted to make things right, so I wrote back:
And the response to my response:
After which, Ferris Bueller removed his negative review on the app store, offered to remove his comment on Medium (I told him to keep it), and emailed me directly with his true identity (sadly, it’s not Ferris Bueller). Now, we’re chatting over email about how he can stay involved with the app.
The lesson is this: If you genuinely care about your customers, and take ownership of the mistakes you make, in the long-run, you will almost always win.
(As a commitment to this, I’ve been staying up late these past few days to answer every single comment, question, and email I receive)
4. Customers drive more than metrics
When you launch your product, it’s really easy to become addicted to the metrics: Number of reads on Medium, number of shares on TechCrunch, number of downloads, etc. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve been checking my stats pretty compulsively.
That being said, customers aren’t only contributors to your metrics — more importantly, they are contributors to your product. In fact, I think the best product ideas come straight from customers. (Of course, it’s my job as the product creator to determine which ideas fit my vision, how to prioritize them, etc.).
I’ve heard some awesome ideas so far:
People have a lot of varied experiences and perspectives, and if you don’t take advantage of that fact, you are missing out. I appreciate everyone who has sent me an idea for Rightspeed, and look forward to incorporating many of these ideas into the next versions of the product.
If you have an idea and want to share it, send me a note at email@example.com.
5. Getting press is the start, not the end
Losing your TechCrunch virginity is certainly exciting, but it’s not the goal. The goal is to build a great product that people love using. Thus, a press-spike (like this one) is just the beginning.
Now that I have some users, it’s even more important that I go all in on the product. I’m excited to see how far I can push Rightspeed and the speed-listening community in general.
If you want to stay up-to-date on Rightspeed’s progress, make sure you follow me on Medium. I will be posting all updates here.
Thanks for all your support!
Max Deutsch is the founder of Rhombus, a Startup-As-A-Service company, based in San Francisco. Rhombus works with non-technical entrepreneurs to build stunning mobile apps, like Rightspeed.