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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.

Comments (14)

Congrats on the launch buzz, Rich!

So, how many months before you can actually sleep again? ;)

Yah I am not sleeping well. Got 3 hours last night.

Would love to know who you use for PR.

curious george:

Who was your PR firm?

Well done! It's great of you to share the experience. Really puts it into perspective, just how much hard work it takes to create the right kind of 'response' from the press! Thanks for sharing ;)

Well done! It's great of you to share the experience. Really puts it into perspective, just how much hard work it takes to create the right kind of 'response' from the press! Thanks for sharing ;)


who is your great PR firm?

When you shell out tons of dough you get the big splash but remember everyone loves a google competitor so don't be lured into drinking your own kook aid.

I was not blown away at all by the product. In fact it reminds me of Cuil. The big splash was followed by the big fall. Be careful you don't fall into that same trap.

Buzz today as fast as it is generated disappears just as fast. You can't throw money at momentum and quality of the product.

Good luck.


Actually we didnt spend much on our launch at all. No TV ads, billboards, radio spots, adwords, etc. We hired a small pr agency who did a great job of getting us a chance to tell our story to reporters. I don't think that there's a start-up in the world that would turn down stories from the top media outlets. We've been very clear in our interviews that we have the modest goal of being the #3 search engine.

Fortunately for us most of the coverage (media, blogs and tweets) has been very positive thus far. People seem to be getting slashtags and the open data model with respect to data. Doesn't sound like your experience with the product was good - would love to hear your specific feedback (mike at blekko dot com)

we believe the market is a better place and users are better served when there are more than two search engines. The other 2 are here to stay. We want to be #3.

btw for those asking our firm is Sutherland/Gold

The operative words in this whole post are the "Wall Street Journal broke our press embargo.."

Have you printed that out and framed it yet? I'd do backflips down main street for that honor of WSJ breaking a story...

The "name must be verbable" thing is overblown.

For one thing, a lot of big sites with lots of search traffic aren't verbs, they're nouns. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter. The verb for twitter is to tweet. What's the verb for doing a twitter search?

For another, it's easy to verb blekko - "blekko it". That's what I tell my kids when they ask me something that could be looked up online. Not hard, watch the interviewer in this video do it, he's heard of blekko for the first time and has no trouble verbing it:


very nice you share your experience that a lot of hard work it takes to create the right kind of 'response' from the press! Thanks for sharing ;)

Is there a startup equivalent to the showbiz "break a leg"?

In any event, congrats and good luck.

My first experience(s) with blekko (hang on, I have to add blekko to my browser's dictionary. Ok) have been positive.
It's a cool, and fun concept.
Especially the api slashtags. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.

There's a learning curve, but there is for nearly all new things especially in technology and you can't just count on mainstream people who just like to point, click, and go to embrace blekko quickly.

I suspect that (as usual) it will be up to early adopters and the more technically inclined to get more mainstream people using blekko without really thinking about it. Kind of like how Firefox became successful.

Perhaps creating some community tools (forums, etc) wouldn't be a bad idea. Get people feeling like they're a part of something whether it be the coolest new thing online, or an anti-Google movement. :)

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