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How not to talk to the Press

If you've been reading the paper lately, you probably heard the news that we've given up on the business, packed it in and applied for jobs at Dairy Queen. If you've been following Twiddla, however, and seen some of the cool new stuff that we've rolled out over the last few weeks, I think you'll agree that the above statement is not entirely true.

We have, it seems, been misquoted.

We did an interview with the New York Times recently about our fast product turnarounds, and the fact that between the two founders of Twiddla, we've been nominated for (and won) SXSW awards for two separate products in consecutive years. That's a pretty cool feat, and certainly one worth reporting.

Somewhere in the course of that interview, our man Ben was describing the roller-coaster ride that tech startups such as Twiddla tend to follow as they move from concept to prototype to successful product. It's best visualized in this chart that I'm redrawing from memory after having seen it on the whiteboard at YCombinator's office in Stanford.

Basically, every startup in the world follows this growth curve (with the exception of those that never make it onto the radar), and we did too. Winning SXSW gave us a ton of media attention and enough web traffic to choke a wildebeest. Naturally, that faded quickly enough and we were forced to stand on our own merit. We iterated rapidly and made lots of improvements to the product in the hopes of attracting and retaining users that stumbled across the site. After a few months, we started to see the fruits of that labor, as word-of-mouth traffic, blog traffic, and Twitter referrals came flowing in. Here we are a year later, and we've grown to the point where our average Monday traffic is roughly half what it was that day when the entire population of Japan checked it out, and real people are paying real money to use the thing.

In short, we're doing amazingly well.

Anyway, back to that interview. Naturally, reporters like to make their stories interesting, and they absolutely love controversial quotes. Especially if they have a great catch phrase like "Trough of Despair". So in hindsight, it seems obvious that after hearing Ben describe that chart, we'd get quoted the way we did. Never mind the part where (in the next sentence), we went on to talk about how great it's been now that we've climbed out of that trough. That would just add to the word count, and really, nobody cares about that part.

So I'll close with the advice that everybody who's ever talked to the press will tell you (and that we neglected to heed last week to our own peril.): Always expect that everything you say will be quoted out of context. Find a way to craft your sentences so that each one of them contains all the context they'll need to stand on their own. Don't be afraid of reporters, but keep in mind that their goal for the interview may be different than yours. You want to get your message out. They want to tell an interesting story. If you're smart, you'll make sure that the interesting parts of your story just happen to be the parts that make you look good.


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