Monday, August 3, 2009

Amusing Rants

Over the past few months, several high-profile reporters have started a very public campaign about what they hate about PR practices and people. I find this particularly amusing given the current state of media and how reporters are becoming more and more irrelevant in today’s information cycle. The most recent comes from Robin Wauters of Tech Crunch where he writes:

“Ever since I’ve started blogging about technology a couple of years ago, I’ve been consistently growing an immense feeling of hate towards press releases, and it’s not getting any better.”

The inverted pyramid style that most people use for releases is one that has been around forever simply because it’s what reporters wanted. It gave them the meat of the news up front and then added context with additional quotes, market stats, etc to articulate why the announcement was newsworthy. Reporters wanted to know what the news was, and if the first paragraph grabbed them, would read more to get additional details. Press releases of this era were written for reporters to be read by reporters. Today, that’s not the case.

I do agree with Mr. Wauters that companies often want to use terms that are dated and meaningless. Companies often make claims about leadership and the potential impact of a product or service that are loosely based on the truth. Often these terms are used to try and generate excitement into a release that might only be moderately interesting. The disappointing part of these releases is that if the PR person took the time to understand:

1. How this announcement impacts the market
2. How this announcement will impact the target customer and what benefit will they derive from it
3. What this announcement means in terms of the company’s overall growth and progress,

they might have been able to draft a release that is interesting and engaging for the person reading it.

What I find amusing is the idea that Mr. Wauters thinks press releases are still written for reporters. Press releases are a mechanism for Fair Disclosure and a means to take your story directly to end users. With RSS feeds, content aggregation sites and email, press releases are now written for the end user. Companies now have hundreds of direct communication channels to their target audiences and, for better or worse, the terms Mr. Wauters listed are important to them. If a company’s products or services have won an industry award or been recognized as industry leading, that provides validation that might be important to a potential buyer, partner, investor or potential employee.

When press releases are viewed as a way to tell your story directly to the target audience, without the filter of a reporter’s interest or bias, it changes the way press releases can be written. In this context, you don’t have to worry about snarky comments from a blogger that can create a bias in the article. You’re writing a release to tell a story, much like reporters used to do when reporters were journalists and not former entrepreneurs, lawyers or political pundits.

What I found even more interesting, given Mr. Wauters’ post, was several press releases issued by Oxynade where he is listed as the Partner/Marketing Director. See how many of the words he hates are included:

From “Oxynade Raises $1.3M Series A Fund”:
Internet startup Oxynade ( has secured 1 million / $1.33 million in Series A funding in a round led by venture capital firm Arkafund and joined by Vinnof (Vlaamse Innovatiefonds), a provider of seed capital to innovative Flanders-based startups with global ambitions.
Oxynade puts its advanced (isn’t this another word for next-gen, cutting edge, etc?), proprietary aggregation technology into practice by making all collected event information accessible through a vertical search engine dubbed Happenr ( This way, European users have an easy-to-use, central service to discover what's going on in their neighborhoods or their holiday destinations. In Q1 2009, Oxynade will enable Happenr visitors to directly buy tickets for paid events online, thanks to a series of partnerships with e-ticketing service providers and by offering a proprietary digital ticketing platform to event organizes who don't have a system in place yet.

Oxynade's rich database of event calendar information is perfectly suited for media companies as well as the cultural and travel industry, who can benefit from the company's advanced technology and open philosophy (e.g. free web controls and public API) to offer a value-added service to their customers and users. It allows them to offer more information about what's going on where in Europe, and effectively use the content to generate more revenues out of their online presence.

Oxynade, founded in 2007 by engineers Hans Nissens and Niko Nelissen, will use the investment capital for aggressively expanding its current coverage for events, speed up the development of a robust online ticketing platform and close strategic partnerships with large media companies across the European continent.

Hans Nissens, co-founder and CEO of Oxynade, explains: "There was a genuine need in Europe for a straightforward, overarching way to discover what's happening where, regardless of one's interests or location. People are social creatures who like spending their leisure times actively. Happenr allows them to find out which events are going on where exactly, and buy tickets for payable events in one go. We're extremely pleased to see both Arkafund and Vinnof had a strong belief in the potential of our services and people."

Corelio, the second largest Belgian media Group, has already evaluated the opportunities that lie in integration Oxynade's data in their websites, particularly for local news outlets. The media conglomerate has inked a deal with Oxynade that will allow them to leverage its data to expand its online services and increase revenue from their internet properties.

Patrick Saliën, Corelio: " is working on a pilot project together with Oxynade to use its valuable data for our online event calendar. The partnership with Oxynade will turn, as well as other Corelio news sites, by far into the most extensive event agenda in Belgium. For a media company like Corelio, it's important to support online innovation and look for opportunities to expand our reach and services with value-added initiatives."

Thierry Geerts, Arkafund: "Oxynade has a solid management team, an outspoken vision and a realistic business model. All good reasons for us to participate, particularly because of our own positioning and Arkafund's focus on media and ICT investments. We're absolutely convinced that this collaboration will prove valuable for both of us."

Tom De Moor, Vinnof: "Oxynade is a company that intelligently aggregates valuable data from the internet using innovative technology, and by doing so they respond to a clear need from the market. The mix of these ingredients sparked an interest from Vinnof to participate in this investment, so we can help develop the current potential even further."

Enough fun for today. I now need to draft a release on a company’s new award-winning, innovative next-generation service that will revolutionize the industry.

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