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November 1, 2010

Anatomy of blekko's press launch

Today’s news generated coverage in several top-tier national business outlets, including NYT, WSJ, AP, Reuters, Huffington Post, WIRED, FT, TIME, and BBC, as well as multiple leading tech outlets, such as Mashable, PC Mag, PC World, CNET, eWeek, ZDNET, BusinessInsider and many more.

The AP piece received more than 70 reposts in multiple top-tier outlets including CBS News, CNBC, NBC Today Show, LA Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Seattle PI, to name a few.

Broadcast coverage has also been really strong with more than 85 airings nationwide mentioning Blekko’s launch.

Rich made a great appearance on Bloomberg TV.

We’ve also received coverage from NPR, as well as NBC, CBS and ABC network affiliates in the Top DMAs including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Today’s news also generated quite a bit of social media buzz with over 3,200 tweets to date. The Mashable piece alone received more than 1,400 retweets.

After the Wall Street Journal broke our press embargo 5 hours early, someone on Hacker News asked why we were launching the site on a Sunday afternoon.

But if you want to be in the Monday morning press, a writer's story needs to be done and ready by Sunday. Edited and approved and fact-checked and, and if it's going to be in print, sent to the printing-press. And you had to meet with them to tell them your story before that. So the article is actually done long before you read it, and is just working its way through some process until it lands on someone's doorstep or pops up on a website.

For any kind of big press announcement, however, there isn't a single story. You want many people writing about you - for something major, like a new product announcement, as many as you can get. So you have to coordinate a bunch of different writers, and try to get all the press to show up at the same time.

You coordinate multiple stories coming out at the same time with an "embargo", which is generally a cluster-fsck, because trying to get 20 journalists to agree to all hit "publish" at the same time on a story is like herding cats. The embargoes have been broken on every large PR event I've ever been a part of. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it's just a mistake.

Nearly all business press comes out this way.

If a startup decides to not bother with all of this embargo stuff, they don't get a press pop. No Techmeme, no Digg, no Hacker News, no Reddit, no Google News, no Twitter glow. No secondary press -- reporters tend to write about what they hear a lot of other reporters writing about. You just see a random story here and there occasionally.

I did 20 press briefings last week. We had so many back-to-back interviews last Friday we hired a cab to drive us around the city all day. We couldn't have kept the schedule if we had to find parking each time.

btw, if you don't have a great PR firm, you won't have this problem. You won't have 20 meetings in one week with 8 of them on Friday.

I love the part where I get to tell the story. The more open you are, the more interesting it is. Just tell them what it's really like to be an entrepreneur trying to push out some crazy-brained idea on the market. How you raised money, got people to join, found cheap hotel rooms for the launch and got camping cots and a crock-pot of chili and whatever else you did. It's way more interesting that some dry old press release. And more fun to tell, too.

In the end we got a ton of press - nearly all of it positive.

But it doesn't just happen by itself.

November 6, 2010

ReadWriteWeb: "What have these people built?"

Teaming with excitement after completing giant post about how to be a bittersweet power user of @Blekko... The best parts of the Internet make me feel all the more alive and I'm going to write some crazy shit before I leave this world like the original vision of a beautiful startup's founding dream.
      - Marshall Kirkpatrick
ReadWriteWeb: How to Use Blekko to Rock at Your Job

November 12, 2010

Domainers comment on blekko

He is totally correct. It is totally in the long-term best interest of search engines to de-index all mass-produces content and all affiliate arbitrage and ppc arbitrage. And it does mean de-indexing all DM, Epik, all domainer mass-development efforts, and sites like business.com, etc...
      -- Johnny
Of course sham ‘developers’ are quick to point out immense value of their bogus content. Really though, step outside this wee little community bubble and ask *anyone else* in the internet world about this; the prevailing theme is abject disgust over what the internet is becoming and what monetarily incentivised content is doing to the quality of information found on the web.

The entire internet is rapidly turning into a contrived-content landfill and to be sure, a movement is slowly but surely taking place to offer alternative search solutions. If G has anything resembling an Achilles heel, this is the closest thing to it.

At its core, much like direct keyword navigation, the profitability of trash content is really nothing more than a user-sophistication issue. There are still enough clueless users out there on the web- ones that cannot differentiate between a splog adfarm and a legitimately information-rich page- to keep the bounce rate just low enough and clicks just high enough to stay black… There are just enough ‘grannies getting their first computers’ to keep the game alive. The thing is, this is changing at light speed and in time, the users demanding higher quality content will no longer be limited to tech geeks and people who really ‘get’ the web. It will be everyone.

I was recently researching tax lien investing. For one particular keyword string, an Ezine article ranked very high.

Kinda like how a liar can spot another liar or a thief can spot another thief better than anyone else, I immediately recognized this as farmed, drivel content. The problem was, the information it conveyed was wholly incorrect, in spite of the narrative being written with an authoritative tone, in spite of being ranked shockingly high in serp. It was obviously written by someone who knew precisely *nothing* about the topic at hand but was getting paid to write an article, so they hit the expected research sources, formed a dirty, five minute opinion and stood themselves out there as a bonafide expert… and once they were done writing that article, they repeated that same intellectually bankrupt process with their next paid articles on Alpacas, Forex, Lawrence Kansas Home Mortgages, Medical Tourism in India or whatever else their employer paid them to write.

This is not a sustainable model for the web. G is in a crappy spot since their monetization schemes are the impetus that drive so much of this, yet it all goes against their larger philosophy about content quality… If a challenger ever arises to threaten their dominance, it will be by devising a better algo to filter out this crap and deliver cleaner information to John Q Netguy.
      -- Anon

Did Blekko launch the "Minimum Viable Product?"

I posted a response on Quora to a question titled "How long is too long to release a minimum viable product?". One commenter asked about blekko:
It's interesting that Blekko was in development for over three years before launching. Granted, it's a search engine, but the world has changed an awful lot in those three years.
We felt that the threshold for a "minimum viable product" in the search space was higher than for other products, because the expectations are so high. Negative reception on launch day tends to set a permanent impression in the market which is difficult to recover from, as Cuil found.

In part this is because search engine launches tend to get more attention than launches in other product categories.

On one hand, people have told us we're crazy to be even trying to take on web search because it's impossible... On the other hand they ask why it took us so long. ;)

For our previous company, Topix, we soft-launched a prototype after 9 months of development, and then followed up 3 months later with a bigger press launch. We could do that with Topix, but I don't think it would have worked with blekko.

Some of the dings we've gotten in the launch press actually seem pretty reasonable if you consider that we have a 10-day-old web search engine being compared against ... Google.

Two weeks post-launch, we have a bunch of fans, are getting sustained search traffic 24/7, have users creating slashtags, bloggers are writing how-to posts and guides to using blekko, and we are receiving tons of great feedback from our initial surge of users.

So maybe we launched the Minimum Viable Product after all.

November 23, 2010

blekko partners with DuckDuckGo

When we founded blekko, we decided to find a new playbook to launch and grow our search startup. We deliberately avoided playing into the old hype of being called a "Google killer". We also resolved to work with other search startups, especially ones that shared our conviction to eliminate webspam.

So I'm pleased to announce blekko's first search partnership, with fellow search startup DuckDuckGo. When DuckDuckGo users search on a term which matches one of blekko's seven auto-fired slashtag categories, DuckDuckGo users will see results from blekko. (The seven auto-fired slashtag categories are health, colleges, autos, personal finance, lyrics, recipes and hotels.

As part of this partnership Blekko users will have access to DuckDuckGo’s "Zero-Click Info" on a site-by-site basis. Zero-Click Info helps users find the most relevant information on sites and search terms without having to click on search results.

We’re happy to work with Gabriel and the team at DuckDuckGo. And not just because we both have weird names. It’s because we can kill spam a lot faster working together than we can working against each other. :-)

Read more:

Blekko Partners Up With Search Engine DuckDuckGo (TechCrunch)

Alternative Search Startup Blekko Announces First Partnership (Mashable)

DuckDuckGo/blekko search partnership (GabrielWeinberg.com)

Blekko and DuckDuckGo Launch Search Partnership (BusinessWire)

Blekko Announce's its first Partnership (Marksonland)

November 28, 2010

Algorithmic search is sinking

There's a fascinating story in the New York Times today about an online retailer who actually increased sales and profits by insulting, threatening and even cheating his customers because the more online complaints he got, the better he ranked on Google.

A woman who purchased eyeglasses on one of this online retailer’s sites was harassed and stalked for weeks because she tried to return a purchase. At one point the online retailer told her, "you put your hand in fire. Now it’s time to get burned." The woman told the New York Times, "This might sound like an exaggeration, but I feared for my life. I was actually looking over my shoulder when I left my apartment."

It turns out that the hundreds of online complaints being written about this bad actor were perversely fooling search algorithms into believing this was a quality site because it had a large number of inbound links. In fact, this retailer would intentionally begin battles with customers when he needed to drive an increase in traffic.

Unfortunately this is just a single appalling story in a huge trend we're seeing. There are a finite set of decent retailers you might want to buy stuff online from. But there is an ever-increasing number of spam sites on the web. We're at the point now where there are far more fake retailers than real ones online. The bad sites are getting ever more sophisticated in appearing to be legitimate, to both consumers as well as search engines.

Algorithmic search is sinking.

The only way to combat this and return trust and quality to search is by taking an editorial stand and having humans identify the best sites for every category. The algorithm can't find its way through the web's growing hall of mirrors anymore. And it's only going to get worse.

November 29, 2010

blekko hits broadway?

I got this handwritten pitch in the post this morning. I had been thinking about getting a billboard on 101 for blekko but this would be so much better. We could have a huge electric sign in Times Square. Of course this might cut into our tee shirt budget a bit but I think it would be worth it.

About November 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Skrentablog in November 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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