How To Pitch ProgrammableWeb on Covering Your News

Since 2005 when Google and Flickr planted the seedlings of the API economy with the APIs for Google Maps and Flickr's photosharing service, the API economy has been swelling at an astronomical rate and it includes many more stakeholders than when it was initially forming. Today, not only do we have the API providers and the developers of applications who consume those APIs, the opportunity within the API economy is like a vacuum for venture capital and other corporate investment. Money is pouring in from all corners of the technology and consumer industries (think Internet of Things) and the result has been a tidal wave of new companies and offerings that cover everything from the APIs themselves to solutions and all kinds of standalone and integrated tools for providing, managing, designing and playing with them (the APIs, that is). 

As the API economy and the number of players swells at a nearly exponential rate, so has the number of news pitches that ProgrammableWeb's editors and writers receive daily -- all in hopes that we'll write a timely article, brief, analysis or just publish an edited version of the press release (yes, we actually do that from time to time and they're clearly labeled as company-provided press releases). If we could have our way, we would publish something about every pitch we receive. Unfortunately however, there's more news to cover than there is time in the day to adequately cover it. In other words, we have to make choices every day. 

These choices are very deliberate. ProgrammableWeb's core team -- David Berlind, Wendell Santos, Kevin Sundstrom, and Brett Kittle -- meet on a daily basis to discuss what's new, where it came from, and what to do about it. But we also thought it would be helpful to those of you hoping to get something published to have a set of guidelines for pitching us.

First and foremost, ProgrammableWeb is about the Web as a programmable platform. The news we are most interested in has to do with technologies like Web and browser APIs and the many solutions that work with them. Our audience primarily consists of developers and organizations that currently provide APIs (aka: API providers) or that are thinking about doing so. For those of you just beginning your API journey, we have ProgrammableWeb's API Universityboatloads of prescriptive content about what APIs are, why they matter, and best practices when it comes to providing them. For that audience, whether it comes to helping developers find the best APIs to work with in their next application or offering advice to API providers, our goal is to make their jobs easier to do. As such, the news that we most prefer to cover is the news that makes it easier for our audience members to do their jobs. 

So what qualifies and why?

News about new APIs and SDKs or new major versions of existing APIs (and SDKs) certainly qualifies because of how our developer audience is constantly on the lookout for the latest greatest APIs to include in their Web, mobile, desktop, and server-based apps. The same goes for news about new solutions and tools that help app developers to be better API consumers. At the same time, developer tooling is one of those areas where we start to encounter a grey area because it is such an expansive area of technology. For example, while ProgrammableWeb has a huge audience of app developers and they would no doubt be interested in project and code management tools, we will always give priority to news that's more specifically about the Web as a programmable platform. One mistake we routinely see with the pitches we receive is how they may actually involve some news about API consumption or management, but by the time we receive the pitch, it has been watered-down to attract as many journalists and bloggers as possible (via mail merge). By then, the API-specific material is either deeply buried or excluded altogether in a way that we may overlook the stuff that's most important to us. 

Rule #1:  When pitching ProgrammableWeb on your news, be sure to start your pitch with any API-related relevance, preferably in the subject of your email.

The more work the ProgrammableWeb team has to do to find the relevance of your news to our mission and audience, the less likely it is that we'll get around to publishing something about that news. It's not that we don't like doing the work. It has more to do with the limited time we have and the number of pitches we receive. Your objective should be to make it easier for our editors and writers to discover that relevance.

Rule #2:  Don't wait until the last minute. Give us an early warning about your forthcoming news.

Imagine that you're us, trying to sort through hundreds of pitches, picking what to cover, and when. It takes a fair amount of planning. If your news comes to us at the last minute (like before or as it "hits the wire"), our reporters may already be too blocked up to give it timely coverage. While it's no guarantee that your news will be covered, an early warning definitely increases the likelihood of coverage. The earlier, the better. Some public relations pros come to us weeks in advance. In many cases, those early warnings have paid off with timely coverage. And yes, we agree to embargoes and NDAs. Our track record on this front is first rate. We've haven't broken an NDA yet.  

Rule #3: Less is more, and relevance to our mission matters.

The less material (text) we have to wade through to get to the news, the better. By all means, include your draft or final press release. But preface it with a note that's short, sweet, and relevant. We know this repeats rule #1 to some extent. But the key here is to understand our audience and our mission. Over 90 percent of the pitches we receive are irrelevant to our mission to make it easier for the developers that consume APIs and the providers that provide them to do their jobs. If your news is business news --- for example, it's about a merger, an acquisition, an IPO, venture funding, new partnerships, new customers, or executive appointments -- then it's really not on-mission for us. The same goes for lots of other tech news that's off-mission for ProgrammableWeb. For example, a new camera with a gazillion megapixels, the latest advancement in OLED displays, or the outcome of a consumer technology survey. We're geeks and it's all so cool. But if the pitch isn't relevant, it gets deleted. You can save us a lot of time and increase the likelihood of covering your relevant news by not sending us the irrelevant stuff.

Also, on the "less is more" front, while we'd love to reply to every pitch we get via email, it's simply not possible given the volume. But we see and consider all of them and politely ask that your first pitch about your news be your only pitch. We understand that it's standard operating procedure in the public relations industry to send follow up emails within days or even hours. But when everybody does this, our inboxes get clogged and the overload actually makes it harder for us to consider your news for coverage.

Rule #4: Include important links in your pitches and press releases.

One mistake we see all the time has to do with news about a new API, product, tool, or service. For example, we'll come across a press release that tells us about Whizbang's new API and, near the bottom of that release, it says "For more information go to www.whizbang.com."  Then, when we click-through to Whizbang's home page, there is nothing to be found about the new API. Even worse, when we click around Whizbang's site in search of anything that helps us to better understand the new API (it could just as easily be a product, service, or tool), there's nothing to be found. If you put yourself in our shoes -- a bunch of editors and writers running at lightspeed hoping to cover as much news as possible -- hopefully you can understand how that sort of friction often results in us moving-on to some other news. Think "path of least resistance."

All pitches, whether in press release form or not, should at bare minimum include a link that goes directly to a Web page that's about the product, service, tool, API, etc. that's the subject of the news. One that includes all the interesting details (and also one that we can share with our readers).  For example, if the news is about a new API, there should be a link to the API provider's developer portal. Additionally, if you're sending us a press release, not only should you embed the full release in your email as text (making it searchable when we search our inboxes), but also be sure to include a link to the online version of that press release. Why? Because when ProgrammableWeb's editors and writers start to distribute that information around as part of our editorial planning process, it's much more efficient for us to list those links in a centrally shared document than it is for us to be forwarding dozens of emails on a daily basis. 

Rule #5: Understand some of our other filters

It's also helpful to know how we filter some of the other, seemingly relevant pitches that come our way. For example, there is no shortage of conferences that are either all about APIs or that include API-related content as a part of a broader program. In advance of such events, ProgrammableWeb does not report on the announcement, content, or launch of such events. However, we might very well report on an event's content during or after the event takes place. For example, if one of our staff members attends an event and picks up some relevant news or cutting-edge advice regarding API management, that would be fair game to cover for our audience.

Since developers like hackathons and there's generally no cost to participate in them, we do like to report on some of the more interesting ones. But there is a catch; the prizes must be in the form of all cash. We've seen too many hackathons make a big deal about big prize monies only to learn that the dollar value is based on the retail value of some free services that the winner gets for six months or a year (after which that winner must either pay for the services or disconnect from them). So, when we look at a hackathon to see if it might be worth alerting our audience to it, one of the very first things we look for is the composition of the prizes. No cash? No coverage. 

What about contributed content pitches?

Yes, ProgrammableWeb accepts contributed content from outside parties. For that, we've developed a separate set of guidelines that's worth reading: How To Contribute Articles, APIs and Other Content To ProgrammableWeb.

Still with us and have something to pitch? Send your news pitch to editor@programmableweb.com and it will be sure to arrive in the inboxes of all the editors that influence our daily editorial choices.

David Berlind is the editor-in-chief of ProgrammableWeb.com. You can reach him at david.berlind@programmableweb.com. Connect to David on Twitter at @dberlind or on LinkedIn, put him in a Google+ circle, or friend him on Facebook.

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