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Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.


Last week I gave a lecture at The Mobile Academy about app promotion and marketing. It was a crash course in getting your first downloads and while much of the content I’ve covered here; one new piece that I addressed during my talk was getting tech press for your app. There has been a ton written by people much more knowledgeable than I about bootstrapping PR, getting press and connecting with journalists so I’m just going to cover a couple of elements that I found particularly relevant for independent app developers when it comes to getting tech press.

1. Be a company, not an app

It’s very rare to see press about a new app launching. You see coverage of new companies trying to solve a problem. If their solution happens to involve an app, then that’s addressed but an independent app developer creating a new game isn’t news. Describe yourself as more than an app – figure out how to position yourself as a company.

2. Do something different

Kind of a no-brainer but if you are making an Angry Birds clone called Miffed Mice or something, you’re not going to attract much attention. What are you doing that’s a bit different or unique? Do you solve a problem that exists in other services? Figure out how you stand out from the crowd.

3. Share statistics

If you’re willing to share real, legitimate statistics from your company’s growth and usage then you give journalists more context.  Take a look at popular stories on TechCrunch or The Next Web – most will have some sort of statistics from the companies mentioned. Numbers not only validate stories but help other companies and readers understand the ecosystem and benchmark themselves which is one of the reasons stats make popular reading.

4. Target the right journalist

Usually rule number one of bootstrapped PR – make sure you’re talking to the right person. If your emailing a journalist who only covers hardware about your app, you’re just cluttering up their inbox and you certainly won’t get a response. Get familiar with the journalists who cover your beat and write them personalized pitches when you have something relevant to share.

5. Define your audience

Another ‘duh’ concept but it’s very easy for journalists (and readers) to be skeptical of apps and businesses that claim to solve a problem for everyone in the world, or a new network that “everyone” will want to join. Niche is the current buzzword and it’s because it’s a much more interesting and believable story when a company recognizes a problem that affects a specific group and then goes about solving it. Who are you solving a problem for ? Who are you creating content and entertainment for? If you answer is everyone, then you’d better have some pretty impressive stats to back up that claim.

6. Pick a fight

While you should avoid actually throwing punches, sometimes some healthy competition can help garner some publicity. Whether you place yourself at odds with a bigger company or app in your space (such as a Facebook, Instagram, Candy Crush or similar), play off of another company’s misfortune or mistake to highlight your own offering (such as the news highlighting Amazon’s poor staff conditions or Google not paying UK taxes), or do (or provide) something slightly controversial (such as Snapchat being associated with sexting), any conflict can help you grab headlines.

This week, make sure you’ve set up your company to address the six points above to generate tech press for your app.

Spoonfed on Reuters

Last Friday was an exciting day in Spoonfed HQ.  Not only was the weather glorious and there was left over cake from the previous Cake Thursday, but Matt Cowen of Reuters TV came by to pay us a visit, camera in tow, and to learn more about the Spoonfed Radar application for the iPhone.  He interviewed Alex, took some shots of the office, and put together this little piece about finding London nightlife using mobile apps.  If you look closely you’ll spot the back of my head…

More baking

Sunday was Ann’s birthday and so with a wonderful excuse to do some proper baking (which I hadn’t done in quite a while) I picked the most complex cake recipe I could find, raided the grocery store for enough chocolate to make everyone else in line raise an eyebrow (and look on quite jealously) and scoured the kitchen for anything that could make my job easier (I’m still using plastic pint glasses as measuring cups as they don’t have American style measuring cups here and we don’t have an ingredients scale).

Image of what the cake was supposed to look like - take from Martha Stewart's website.

The recipe I decided to use was from Martha Stewart’s website and is a Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache (picture from her website above) which is basically an excuse for chocolate covered chocolate covered chocolate cake with chocolate filling. I’ve reposted the ingredients below so you can get a sense of how rich this cake is:


Makes one 9-inch layer cake

* 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
* 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
* 3/4 cup hot water
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 1/4 cups sugar
* 4 large eggs
* 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
* Chocolate Ganache

For the instructions, check out the cake on Martha’s site.

I had used this recipe once before – in an attempt to make the cake while at college at Colby. Unfortunately due to a series of scheduling conflicts, we didn’t end up in the kitchen we had planned on using and found ourselves continually sticking the cake and the ganache out in the Maine snow in an attempt to get the chocolate to cool. This time, with at the very least a refrigerator, I wanted to prove that Martha’s cake couldn’t master me.

I’m not sure I entirely did so. The cake turned out pretty well (and quite delicious) but there were a number of minor issues. First – I would advise you NOT to try this recipe if you don’t have an electric mixer. I did it by hand and beating the ganache for the middle layer took about 40 minutes of whisking. Also, I didn’t have two layer cake pans so used a single, larger 9-inch pan, planning to cut the cake in half to create two layers. This worked alright, although it doubled the baking time which meant that the outsides were just a tad overdone. Unfortunately, in my impatience to get going with the frosting (which I had just spent 90 minutes preparing, including 40 minutes of whisking), I tried to start spreading the ganache before the cakes had cooled which caused the chocolate to melt all over the counter – and the top layer to break in half!

In the end, the cake came out surprisingly well and looking a lot more like the picture than I had ever expected. Let me know what you think:

Brilliant, so after a week I finally got YouTube to upload my video of last week’s concert in Hyde Park to celebrate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday. To be fair, the fact that they were so far off on the date (even the man himself pointed out that we were all there about six months too late) had more to do with the fact that the massive stage from the BBC Proms in the Park the night before was going to be unused that Sunday and they had to fill it with something rather than the fact that BBC Radio2 and Andrew Lloyd Webber aren’t Facebook friends (honestly, how did we remember anyone’s birthday without Facebook?). In any case, I have to admit that I didn’t much mind who we were celebrating or what they’d be playing because I was going to see John Barrowman present.

Mr. John Barrowman is a television and stage actor who just happens to be one of the most fantastic characters in the Doctor Who universe and so I couldn’t pass up a chance to see him present the show, and sing. In my excitement to see the dashingly attractive (unfortunately gay) and talented John Barrowman, I had actually forgotten how much I do enjoy most of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music.

Ann and I, along with her co-Girl Guiding leader Ellie, packed a delicious picnic dinner (more difficult than you might imagine when Ellie is gluten-free, Ann is vegetarian and I like meat and bread) a bottle of wine, and made our way to Hyde Park. The concert area was enormous and we were quite far back but thankfully they had set up giant screens. Effectively, I was just watching the event on TV, but it was a lovely night and being outside, with all the other people at the event, was quite fun.

I was also amazed at the other stars who were in attendance that night – of course I hadn’t looked much farther down the playbill than John Barrowman’s name when I was reading about the event, but Joss Stone (the blurry person in white in the video below), Idina Menzel (the less blurry person singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”) and a bunch of people from the reality TVs shows here in Britain to find people to play the West End roles in Joseph and Oliver.

I had a great time, actually a lot more fun than I expected. The music was fun, everyone was having a good time, and I hope Andrew Lloyd Webber felt rather proud of himself when 3500 people all stood up and sang “Any Dream Will Do.” Happy birthday Mr. Webber. Thanks for some wonderful music.

You know, after the fact, I realised that I had recorded mostly the songs from Evita which is my favourite ALW music but were not the best performances of the night.  If you’re so inclined, there are so pretty bad quality (like mine!) videos of the performance of “Light at the End of the Tunnel” from Starlight Express which might have been my favourite song of the night.

Speaking of birthdays… I have a flatmate who’s got a birthday soon….

Jive Nation

As promised (you didn’t think I’d carry through, did you!) here is actual footage of me dancing. Last night was the last night in town for Sarah and Steve before they head off to Sydney (lots of ‘s’s for that family) to get married next month. I’m really going to miss them both but it’s going to be so weird not to have Sarah at the office, and then at the dance classes! I’m so glad everyone in the office is so nice, but it’s been especially great to get to know Sarah. In addition to being incredibly sweet and fun, she also manages to find more free things to do around London than I would have thought possible! She was kind enough to lend me her fiance for the dance; keep in mind that I am an absolute beginner (last night was one full week of dance classes!). Also, I overlayed the track because the music came out really fuzzy and there was a lot of chatter – so I just added in the sound again myself :).

Oh, I should mention, that the dance class uses jive steps but modern music, which is great for us as that means you can actually dance in a club somewhere, you don’t just have to wait for big band music. Alright, enough stalling. Here it is – the culmination of 7 Jive Nation dance classes.

Because it’s a little dark I’ll throw in a few more stills that Sarah took throughout the night (not that these were posed at all :-P).

So, that’ll probably be all you see from dancing for a while until my trusted photo- and film-ographers return from Sydney. Today is my day off which means I have more to do than I could possibly imagine. Off to Wales tomorrow morning!