When to Send a Press Release – Are Embargoes Useful?

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself ever since I started releasing software to the public.

Googling “When to send a press release”, I get articles talking about on what specific weekday to send it or at what time of day.
Or “send a press release when you have something newsworthy”.

Although that is good advice – never send anything not newsworthy, you’ll just alienate people – that’s not the subject of this blog post.

What I mean by ‘When’ is: should I send a press release a couple of days before I release an app or on the same day?
And yes, it is an “either – or” kind of situation. I’ve been told by journalists I asked if it’s cool to follow up a week after (or send the press release again) – definitely don’t do that.

Non-Embargoed Press Releases

To issue press releases the same day I release the app itself always felt natural to me. I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve released software.
No advance notice, no follow up – just “send it and forget it”. I want to get the news out when it’s fresh and hot and when it’s available for everyone to download.

Control Is An Illusion

Front and foremost, it gives me this feeling of ‘control’. When sending out a press release the day of, I feel like I’m on the mind of the journalist and like they’re more inclined to write about my app since it is “fresh off the press” and just happened. And there might be some truth to that as I’ve seen good results with that approach. But you never have any control to speak of. That’s an illusion.

Secondly, there’s the App Store Review process. It takes time. So once the review is done and the app has been approved, I’m usually very eager to get the app out the door as soon as possible and not have to wait around a couple of days more to be able to send out press releases ahead of time.
I also don’t want to send out a press release while the app is still in review – that’s got ‘catastrophe’ written all over it.
If you send out a press release with an embargo only to have your app rejected some time later, you’ll have to issue a redaction and that’s just hideously tedious. It’s a one-way-ticket onto the journalist’s blacklist.
Even though there are apps for checking the average review times for the iOS and Mac App Stores, it’s just too uncertain in my opinion.

Forget me not

It’s not fun to spend hours writing a decent press release, send it out early to members of the media just to find out they forgot about it come the actual date of the app release. This is probably not much of an issue with bigger news sites and blogs that have systems in place for embargoed press releases, but smaller blogs run by independent reviewers might do all this by hand, so things might slip their minds.

Sending press releases with an embargo also has the risk of of the news leaking.
You send out your news with an embargo of one week, but that doesn’t mean that every member of the media is going to respect that – they might publish early to break the news first (a problem I assume only bigger companies face who’s news appeals to a broader audience than mine, a small indie developer’s press release; but nonetheless, it’s still something to be wary of).
I hear that embargoes aren’t legally binding, so be wary of that as well. 

Embargoed Press Releases

With everything you’ve read by now, you might think sending a press release beforehand might not be a good idea. And you’re right, a lot of it speaks against it (although it depends heavily on each individual case).

But there is one thing about it that appeals to me more and more the longer I ponder it – with a press release you send early, you give your potential reviewers time.

Time for Preparation

Imagine being a journalist, getting a couple dozen press releases each day (or more) and some of them are to be released on the same day. There’s simply no way you could check out all those apps and publish on the same day. Pressed for time, a journalist might be inclined to just post the entire or edited press release, publish late or not post about it at all. But a full review is out of the question, that’s for sure.

If you issue that press release a week early, though, you’re helping out not only the journalists you’re addressing, but also yourself.
You give the greatest gift there is: time.

Time to check out your app in detail, less in a hurry to get to the next press release, because they do pile up, I’m sure.
Time to use the app for a few days, should they decide to cover it and get a deeper look at how the app works and feels.
Time to experience details about the app that make it stand out over its competitors.
Time to get more details about the app, e.g. check out the app’s Press Kit; ask you for more details if something isn’t clear or if they have any questions in general.

I believe that is invaluable for all parties involved.

Testing Embargoed Press Releases

To put this to a test, for the release of Transloader 2.1, I sent out the press release one week ahead of the release and the result has been way better than I thought. As I wrote before, I sent out PR with the bad aftertaste of thinking it would be forgotten on the actual day of the release.

But that was not the case. Quite the contrary, actually.

After sending out an embargoed PR, I pretty soon received requests for promo codes to an extent I have not experienced before. That might be attributed to the extended time frame they had for reviews, given the embargo. I imagine journalists don’t bother asking for promo codes if they don’t have the time to really look at the app anyway.

The embargo itself worked very well, not one site posted early. I used the following wording (in bold print) right before the press release body

Embargo: Please do not publish before March 10th, 2015

I think I will take out the “Embargo:” part, though, it sounds kind of demanding.

Among others, MacNNc|net and the german site MacGadget posted favorable reviews of Transloader and @MacTrast called it their iOS App of the Day.

All in all, it went very well and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.

Conclusion

I will be moving to embargoed press releases from now on. The benefits of giving journalists some time to check out your app by far outweighs the disadvantages listed above and I think it engaged journalists more.

And that’s what press releases are all about.

—-

My name is Matt, I’m the developer of Eternal Storms Software. If you’d like to comment, you can catch me on twitter here: [twitter-follow screen_name=’eternalstorms’ show_count=’yes’] or by eMail.

Post-WWDC11-Keynote Thoughts

Screen shot 2011 06 07 at 11 51 24

Another WWDC keynote has come to an end, and boy, what a keynote it was. Those guys at Apple surely don’t fool around!

I really hate to have missed this year’s WWDC. There’s lots of new stuff to be discussed there, and while I will download the session videos once they’re available through the Apple Developer Center to developers, it’s still a completely different thing being there, conversing with other people, sharing and exchanging ideas and thoughts and getting to talk to Apple Engineers.

I’ve attended WWDC two times in the past, ’06 and ’08 and I’m so glad I joined in on that experience. I can’t wait to go again, and I’m sad I wasn’t able to this year…

Now let’s get down to some business and talk about some of the new stuff shown at the keynote.

Lion.

We didn’t get to see a whole lot of new stuff on Lion during the keynote. Most of what they showed was discussed earlier already.

In-App Purchases, Delta updates.

A great new thing is in-app purchases (if the thing with lodsys is settled anytime soon) and delta updates.
With delta updates, unlike “usual” updates, where the old application is replaced by the new one which is downloaded completely, only changes in the software bundle will be downloaded and written over the outdated parts. A huge win in bandwidth limits, speed and convenience.

Autosave, Resume.

Things we’ve already seen include autosave and resume. Both huge features in my book because, YES, why would we have to press cmd-s if we have a computer to do it for us automagically and YES, an application should start off where you last left it.
It’s just common sense and if Apple wants to remove the file system, it’s a no-brainer.

Mission Control.

Just one word – awesome 😉 It’s a great evolution of Spaces and Exposé, both features I use profusely and couldn’t imagine living without (although I use it slightly less since I’ve hooked up a Cinema Display to my MacBook Pro as a second display).

Launchpad and fullscreen apps.

Launchpad, well, it’s just a logical step if Apple wants to get rid of the file system as we’ve come to know it.

Fullscreen apps sounds like something I wouldn’t use too often, but who knows, Apple has made it very easy to switch between fullscreen and non-fullscreen apps with the swipe of a few fingers, so with time, I might come around. Right now, it feels kind of unnatural to me.
Going fullscreen was something I did for a short period of time in an app (run a slideshow, go through photos in flickery (shameless self-advertisement, I know), etc.), not something I’d work in for hours.

General thoughts on Lion and later releases.

I think it’s painfully clear where Apple is heading with Lion and subsequent iterations of Mac OS X – away from a file system based operating system to an application based operating system.
Documents will no longer be stored in folders inside folders inside folders but inside the applications they belong to, which, if you ask me, makes sense. To open a document, you don’t need to navigate to the document in Finder but just open the according application and choose the document there, as seen on the iPad with the iWork apps.
There might be a way to still access the file system (kind of like how the Terminal is for users who’d like to access the underpinnings of OS X) but for most of the users, they won’t need to.
A friend on twitter (@freeridecoding) said something that struck me as possible – that Lion will be the last Mac OS that is separate from iOS.

iOS 5.

What can I say except “Boom”? iOS 5 will be a great new release. Here’s a few features I’m excited about (since everything not in the keynote is under NDA, I can only talk about end-user features)

Notification Center.

About time. I’m glad they hired that jailbreak-software-guy, since he obviously knows what he’s doing.

iMessage.

Nice idea, but I’d like to know how they handle SMS now. Is it a different app? Will I have to remember what contact of mine has an iOS device with iOS 5 so I can use iMessage or if they have a, say, Nokia and I have to use the SMS app? Does the iMessage app do this for me? Figure out what device at the other end of the line and send either an iMessage or an SMS?

Reading List.

Great new feature, love it. I’ve been using a bookmark folder and MobileMe Bookmarks Sync for that functionality, but now it will be simpler. Very nice.
Not so nice for a certain developer of a certain Instapaper app. To quote him: “Shit.” (@marcoarment)

Twitter Integration.

I’ll have to see if this will replace any other twitter app for me. I’m guessing no.

Reminders.

This is an idea I had been thinking about for a few weeks (especially the location-aware tasks.) Too bad for me as a developer, I guess. Great for me as a user since this will be the first to-do list I’ll be using.

PC Free.

Finally. There’s nothing I’ve been loathing more than having to physically connect my iPad or iPhone to my Mac just to update the system software.

Sherlocked.

I just wanted to let you in on my thoughts about this. You might have heard this term on twitter or the general web. My understanding is it refers to a search app in OS 8 times called “Watson“, developed by Karelia Software. They wrote that software, released it and some time later, Apple came out with their search software for Mac OS 8.5 called “Sherlock” which was more or less an exact copy of Watson (which put Watson out of business, more or less, but Karelia Software is still doing great). This is where the verb “sherlocked” comes from.

Apple has done this a couple of times before, one of the earliest with the system 7 menu bar clock, where they copied an independent software developer’s idea and app.

Sometimes, Apple has the decency to buy things instead of just stealing them – like CoverFlow, but sadly, that’s not the case very often.

I think this is “below all pig”, as we say in German (which means an effin’ outrage! ).
I don’t like this. Affected developers obviously have no idea that they’re going to get sherlocked and if their application in question is their only source of income, this can put people and families at risk.

So I’d like to see Apple buy things instead of stealing them, but that’s probably quite unrealistic. I guess it’s an occupational hazard – developing for Apple devices more so than for any other’s.

iCloud.

iCloud is the new digital hub. It used to be iTunes, your local machine. Now it’s the cloud, and I do think it’s the way to go. You want your data everywhere, without having to manually copy files over. You want changes instantly populated to your other devices, so you can work on any device whenever and wherever you want. This is great!

For me, personally, Lion and iCloud are what I’m most interested in now. I’d been hoping for an easy way for developers to sync their users’ data amongst devices, and now with iCloud, we have it!

It will be interesting to see how iCloud develops, especially if it would be possible to share sync’ed data with other users of iCloud for, say, collaborative features. That would be a great next step.

Conclusion.

I have yet to install and try out any of this, I’m currently working on an external project with a deadline due very soon and I just haven’t got the time to install all this new software until the deadline has passed (and I hopefully complete the project, hehe), but I’m looking forward to trying all of this!

In summary, this is what your typical user and most developers (including me – this is me, by the way 😀 ) looked like while watching the keynote:

Before the keynote:

before

During the keynote:

during

After the keynote:

after

On the other hand, some developers looked like this while getting sherlocked:

Before the keynote:

before

During the keynote:

during

After the keynote:

after

 

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