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Uncrate gets flamed for being sensible

Editorial Staff

Uncrate is a kind of super-blog that doesn't sell anything online. It's like those glossy magazines that pretend to journalism but are really there to advertise the latest shade of lipstick or a new hair gel. Or, heaven forbid, the latest colour iPhone. But Uncrate is honest: it doesn't pretend to journalism, there is no fake editorial and no click-bait stories promoted via those annoying "around the web" things at the bottom of so many web pages. It's an open, clear and honest business model, mixing blatant advertising with interesting things they've found, even though there is no advertising contract in place. So why are so many people bitching about the way it does business?

You can visit www.uncrate.com to see that it's, essentially, a display ad website with some social media elements.

Uncrate is not Ungrateful. It likes to find out about unusual, cool and high quality products. But often it does so by trawling the web. It doesn't mind getting press releases or pitches but it's clear: don't bug us. Tell us once and we'll get back to you if we are interested, is their line.

That, as anyone who has worked in publishing knows, is the standard response to press releases. And no matter how you cut it, a message to a media outlet saying "look at me" is a press release. And only an infinitesimal proportion of press releases are likely to be of any interest to a journalist or, worse, to readers.

Those who issue personalised, scripted, they hope targeted, messages are excited about their product, as they should be. And enthusiasm is one of the things that keeps people keeping on when dark thoughts come; a belief in the product is the only thing that many entrepreneurs have in store, except perhaps stuff that, so far, no one has bought.

But it's their business, not the publisher's business and Uncrate is no different to any other publisher. It has limited resources, including the one resource that is entirely un-renewable, time.

When someone at payment services provider Shopify wrote about some companies that were featured on Uncrate, he found five all of whom said that they had found it difficult to communicate with Uncrate. Messages were not responded to, no phone numbers were available, but somehow, and seemingly none of them having communicated with Uncrate, they found that they were receiving orders referred from editorial in Uncrate. The editorial was not what they had provided and images were not provided by the company. In short, there was proper journalism, unbiased, and with Uncrate not receiving any form of advertising fee or commission for their recommendation. They were all very happy.

The writer of the article published a copy of a script that he said was an example of a way to get attention from Uncrate. The article (https://www.shopify.com/blog/1...) said, amongst other things "Prepare your story and your email script to contact the editors.... Be persistent. Followup about a week after your initial contact." Uncrate did the best thing they could have done: they replied

Do not be persistent. We hate getting multiple emails about the same product. Nor do we like cute "scripts".

It was the right thing: a blogger with a potentially substantial market was giving advice that completely contradicts the way that the company does business.

But the trolls came out to blame Uncrate. They wrote seriously hurtful things, said they hoped Uncrate was not successful (sarcastically, they actually said the opposite).

One, entirely failing to recognise the irony in her approach, wrote

Uncrate...that's such a self entitled douchery of a reply... you ignore business related emails, don't supply information about how one "might" go about contacting you or having their products listed... you dont reply to emails, apparently you dont even contact someone who's product you ARE going to put on your site.... and then you leave a comment telling people how you hate when they try to get a hold of your company in a way you're not happy with..

And that's at the heart of the problem: those who think they are entitled to appear on a referrals website but don't want to pay for advertising. They wouldn't expect to appear in Vogue or House and Home yet assume that they have a right when it comes to websites.

Uncrate does what it does and it does it well. As of Jan 2014 it claimed more than 1.5 million unique visitors and 10 million page views per month. Its advertisers are blue chip companies and smaller vendors. But note that these are advertisers, not free PR.

Uncrate has got it right: it's an advertising driven publication not a social media platform.

True, they were almost as forthright as us when they replied to one critic. They said

You seem to be under the impression that we're asking for emails from businesses. We're not really looking for pitches. And no one on earth likes getting an email about the same thing three times in a row. Also, why in the hell would we have a help desk or FAQ? We're not an online curtain store from 1998.

The original story had other advice, too. It said not to write to Uncrate but to write to its parent company. Uncrate replied

Also, DO NOT email Zombiecorp. Uncrate editors don't even receive those emails! Please do not recommend Shopify stores to email the parent company.

There's no sugar coating, no social worker whine, no room for misinterpretation. Uncrate said exactly what they meant with total clarity. To those for whom words are designed to obfuscate, this is a shock. To real people who are really busy in real business, there's no room or time for all the chatty niceties which, more often than not, are either misunderstood or used as an excuse for a futile attempt at negotiation which, inevitably, means even more wasted time.

Kudos to Uncrate. Brickbats to those who think the world is there to give them something for nothing.

There is one valid criticism in the comments, though. Someone asked (albeit without using the term) that a rate card be made available if the company wasn't anxious to communicate with prospective advertisers. Then again, we don't do that either.