I've made no secret of the challenges I've had over the years with TypePad. When the new composer was rolled out in beta to some users a couple of years ago, and I was among them unknowingly, my domain name needed remapping every two hours.
The support I received was lots of nice words about how hard the company was working, however it did not fix the problem for weeks. Not my idea of fun, even though, admittedly, I am one of those bloggers who write for fun.
One of the undesirable customers who is not looking to build a modern media company -- at least not in the way Troy Young, president of Say Media, which just bought Six Apart, defines in AdWeek (emphasis mine).
"Say Media expects to lose some subscribers to the Six Apart blogging platform. Its main focus," Young said, "is in those that hope to build media businesses, rather than regular people who write a blog for fun."
There are many ways to build a platform
And several are not predicated or built upon ads. Rather, they are built on content and interactions, both of which are the result of the hard work of professionals who took to blogging for many reasons, passion among them.
You will find those reasons in the comments to the announcement by TypePad. Since TypePad staff is out in force to dispel the notion that indeed the new company is as committed to customers at Six Apart, this means that there is a disconnect between company talk and customer experience.
It's still hard to comprehend how here we have a technology platform upon which are built so many blogs, that apparently reach a combined audience of 205MM, if we discount VideoEgg's 140MM [source: New York Times post], and all we can think of is serving ads.
What are you really saying?
While we tell you what's good for you. Is this what bloggers really want? From the NYT post:
Mr. Anker said Six Apart had been shifting its business focus from blogging tools to advertising for at least two years. What bloggers really want, he said, isn’t better technology for allowing comments, but a way to support their livelihoods.
People are media savvy. You don't need to want to build a media empire like The Huffington Post to be able to read between the lines. The official announcement and the executive quotes are directed squarely at the marketers who hope to buy their way into fans, followers, and friends in social.
What the communication doesn't address are the very questions the company should have been able to anticipate. This is how rumors (at best) start and spread, and how crisis develop. One commenter in the thread said it best (emphasis mine):
Profit-making is essential for a company but it is not what motivates most people who blog. Say Media has yet to show that it understands--let alone values--the humble act of blogging. Bedside manner is nice and all, but we need evidence that Say Media, TypePad's new boss, actually gets what we do.
Mergers and acquisitions are tricky business. I worked with a boutique consulting firm that helped manage risk also in M&A situations, and in a company that made M&As its growth strategy, thus buying in the hundreds of smaller companies.
You may not be in a position to make promises too early, however the companies in the deal do know what the most common questions will be. Experienced communicators and PR teams can rattle those off and should enroll executives in answering them.
Saying that nothing changes is akin to saying "no comment". We know better, you know better. The we want to hear from you follow up shows that there is nobody listening. And Mr. Sanches confuses the tool with the outcome (emphasis mine):
As Ben and Mena posted yesterday, we will continue to support TypePad and evolve it to meet the needs of the market. We firmly believe that you can't build a modern media company without having a platform, and TypePad is our platform for doing that.
As I said above, you can build a platform across tools -- it's the content, and the interactions with you that determines that. How is a new media company not understanding that? Why are they insisting that thousands of people who have built their own platform see things the same way they do?
Can Say Media see the change they need to make and behave that way? Bloggers in the comments say they don't want no stinking ads -- the very same ads we have become very good at ignoring.
Clearly, there is a disconnect between the announcement and the community. That disconnect is a failure to communicate, and a PR fiasco. What you can learn:
- say it like you mean it
- include supporting evidence
- show customers you are listening
- prove your promises are going to be delivered
- don't try to appease or patronize
- answer questions truthfully
A blog can help you build a platform, it's not one and the same. Personally, I don't like or use ads. My platform is content-driven, based upon our interactions, and the exchange of value. It's the same reason why I don't publish product pitches. They are often not useful to the community we have here.
I'm not planning to "go commercial" here. I don't see you as "consumers" to exploit. Our connection is built upon a relationship. Do you believe Say Media? In your view, are they showing they care?
[image courtesy of oHoTos]