Tuesday, February 14, 2012

PressPass Tries To Easily Connect People And Businesses To Journalists

PressPass is in beta testing and has just launched a directory of vetted journalists with the goal of creating a platform for startups, street reporters, small businesses, and everyday people to connect with them and share stories. The database boasts over 5,000 journalists reporting for about 250 publications.

The idea is rock solid, but the functionality and effectiveness fail in my opinion. Before I get into specifics lets take a look at what it purports to do.

PressPass wants to provide a benefit to journalists by proving them with new stories to write about, and to the individual by helping them find the best reporter to get their story in front of for coverage. "I’m hoping that everyone who has a newsworthy story will be able to not only find the right reporters to get their word out, but build trustworthy relationships with them." says co-founder Valencio Cardoso.

When arriving at the website you will begin to browse through the journalists, their media outlets, beats (topics), and geographic regions with the goal of finding the best reporter(s) to contact about your story. This is where things start to go astray for me. First you must know that this is built around Twitter with heavy integration and is the primary data source and communication channel. Cardoso says the reporter's profile is there "to help you to get a more in-depth understanding of the reporter, ensuring that you’re pitching your content to the right people. It also helps journalists receive leads on stories they’d be interested in."

To the right is the PressPass profile page for Matt Brian, a writer for The Next Web (click it for a closer look).

Let's say you didn't know that his Tweets were behind this and you came to the page without reading any information about PressPass; what is your initial though about the stories listed? That Matt wrote them? If so, you are like 90% of the everyday (non-techie) people I asked. Given that misconception you may think he writes about football/soccer, used to be an alcoholic, and uses Twitter.

Even if you do know these originate from his Tweets it still does not really provide substantial information for me to base my decision on about approaching him to write an article about a new iOS app. (He writes mostly about Apple at TNW by the way.) What is mostly peculiar is that he has shared numerous stories he wrote, but they do not show here. As for these 5 items:
  • Tweetbot was shared at 10:00 AM on February 13th
  • The drunk one was actually something he Retweeted on February 4th
  • He Tweeted The Register item at 3:21 AM on February 14th
  • Striker was also a Retweet from January 31st
  • I could not find the fifth one, but the article is from January 31st

The chronological order seems to be modified based on a Tweet's influence (favorites and Retweets). That still does not explain why the articles from the Tweets below are not shown.

It seems to me the articles a writer publishes, especially for their publication, should be given a much higher weight. Seeing articles they Tweet or Retweet may help me know more about the writer personally, but it does not provide value when looking for someone to give my story to. For many publications an author will have a page that lists all the stories they have written (here is Matt's). Tapping into that would provide a wealth of information about the journalist.

In addition to the articles on a writers profile you can see other information from the links shown on the top of the page. None are very useful for me.
  • Topics - Gives the top hastags used in their Twitter stream
  • Spotlights - Shows the people they mention the most
  • Ranking - Simply ranks people overall and by beats based on their total follower count

When I want to contact Matt I press the "Contact this journalist!" button which initiates a Tweet box. For him it shows as "Hey @m4tt >> YOUR MESSAGE << via @presspassme"; your message total obviously can not exceed 140 characters. With Matt there may be a chance of him seeing your message, but imagine trying to get Anderson Cooper to even see your message, never mind reply to you!

I believe for a startup to succeed it needs to create something completely new, greatly improve upon a current service or product, create a new method of thinking, or make a task exponentially easier. As it stands now I can just as easily send an @mention on my own and the author pages do not offer enough insight. The idea behind PressPass is a good one, but I strongly feel they need explicit participation from the journalists and other ways to contact them to succeed. This is just the beginning and I will certainly keep an eye on their progress.

PressPass is based in Dubai and was founded by Valencio Cardoso and David Haddad. You can keep up with them on their blog, Facebook, and Twitter.