Yesterday, TechCrunch reported that ProFounder, a fundraising platform for startups, has shut down. According to the company's founders, securities regulations prohibited them from offering all the services that they wanted to, and led in large part to the company's failure. However, I don't want to dwell on the reasons for the company's failure, and instead examine the importance of one particular factor: Getting press.
If you look at the ProFounder home page (or the former home page, if it's no longer there), you'll see this near the bottom:
ProFounder, like many startups, worked hard to get press coverage; they believed that the press gave them credibility with customers and investors, and to an extent, that was true. However, startups often go to ridiculous lengths to get press coverage...even when their website is nothing more than a placeholder.
Press coverage can motivate people to visit your website...once. If you're not ready for the traffic or you can't do anything productive with it, getting press coverage is not only a waste of your time, it's actually counterproductive. Consider some of the mistakes commonly made by startups: Using your home page primarily to collect email addresses usually results in a low-quality mailing list. Collecting email addresses but not doing anything with them for months results in frustrated visitors. if your website is poorly designed, most visitors won't take the time to figure it out--they'll simply leave. If it's hard to sign up for your service, or either the sign up process or your service itself doesn't work, they'll leave. Even worse, once they leave they probably won't come back.
Press coverage that comes as a result of running a successful business is far more valuable than coverage pursued in the hopes that it will make your business successful. And, you have much more leverage over how your story is reported when the press is pursuing you, rather than the reverse. In the earliest stages of your business, social media is far more effective than press coverage for reaching potential customers.