Wired UK crowns Foursquare King on cover, but UK peasants revolt

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This month’s Wired UK magazine has pulled out the stops and put Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley on the cover. In spades. Crowley is pictured wearing a crown and is dubbed “The New King of Social Media”. The subhead is “Why Google, Yahoo and Facebook want to unlock his world.”

That’s a pretty big accolade and, indeed, Crowley has written a long explanation about how the cover story and shoot came about. He says “not to nerd out, but this is the stuff that Little Denny College dreamed big about back in 1997 (for real)… so I’m pretty happy with it :)”

As you can see, the photographer made him wear some makeup “but I think my luscious lips and forearms are photoshopped,” says Crowley.

Not everyone is happy with Wired’s angle, but more of that later. Meantime, here’s Crowley take:

We met up with Wired writer Neal Pollack in Austin during SXSW who trailed team foursquare for a few days. Neal wrote a pretty great piece which is in the July 2010 issue of Wired UK. (this cover / story won’t be in the US version of Wired). You can read the whole story here.

When we got back to NYC, we ended up doing a photo shoot w/ Brett Humphreys at Larry Lawrence in Williamsburg. They insisted on Larry Lawrence because of a similar shoot they had done w/ Josh Williams and crew in Austin and wanted to pair the photos up side by side (both bars have similar looking decor). They asked us to round up 20 of our friends and head out to Brooklyn on a random weekday afternoon, so we got on the Twitter and tried our best to create a mini flashmob. The photo came out great and side-by-side they’re even better. Take a look.

About a week after the shoot, the editor of Wired UK called and asked if we wanted to be on the cover. So I went over to a studio in the West Village, met up with Jill Greenberg (the photographer. she was great… and also shot Soraya’s awesome Fast Company cover) and this is the end result. There was a stylist (that’s not my shirt!) and a make-up person (I got a free haircut!)… and a bunch of crowns. 95% of the shots were no crown (“no way am I wearing that thing”) though we did a few with in on… and I guess crown won. So be it. To be honest, I thought the crown was more of a prop for the foursquare “mayor” thing… I didn’t really think it was a “King of Social Media” thing (does anyone really believe that… come’on, people!)

Anyway, not to nerd out, but this is the stuff that Little Denny College dreamed big about back in 1997 (for real)… so I’m pretty happy with it :)

He then goes on to give some advice to anyone faced with the prospect of a photoshoot, such as “I can totally see how photographers get people to do crazy things in photoshoots” and “bring a friend with you that can tell you whether you are taking it a little too far.”

However, he points out that the famous European conference DLD actually sold photos on of him to other media outlets which is pretty ridiculous.

But this Wired UK cover shoot has stirred some feelings of angst amongst the UK’s Foursquare competitors.

Andrew Scott, CEO of Rummble (which just got $800k more runway) has been battling WiredUK on Twitter about the cover.

He tweets: “Unimpressed by @WiredUK ignoring @Rummble@TellMeWhere et al in July issue 8pgs+cover of 4sq & Gowalla. Can u ever imagine that in reverse?”

In other words, would Wired US ever put the CEO of non US startup on the cover? Well, actually it almost certainly has, but then it’s usually because the company is making big waves.

The inherent problem with European mobile location startups is that they have tended to concentrate on their home markets.TellMeWhere is largely France-based (though trying to break out), and although Rummble has over 100,000 users globally it has not yet had a “break-out” moment.

Wired UK isn’t taking it lying down however. As it’s Twitter account (usually run by editor David Rowan), says “@andrewjscott Hmm, just counted more than a dozen UK startups celebrated in the new issue. But hey – feel free to moan!”

  • http://twitter.com/tomcavill Tom Cavill

    Approx 4sq stats: 1.5m users, 31m page views/month, 20m API request per day.

    How does Rummble compare to this?

    Foursquare is making waves, creating a buzz and garnering interest from the big players.

    I don’t think these small competitors have a great deal to complain about – you lost the war, move on.

  • http://www.imetstuart.com Stuart Gibson

    Interestingly, in the crowds I run with, almost no-one uses Foursquare and almost everyone uses Gowalla. I don’t know if that’s peculiar to Belfast or if it’s a UK thing, but Foursquare being slow to launch here and not letting you create spots certainly had a lot to do with it. You literally couldn’t check in with Foursquare, so Gowalla got the traction.

    • http://www.mobileinc.co.uk Murat

      same here, normal friends outside of work don’t know or care about Foursquare. Tried explaining it to a couple of mates and they were like ‘why the fuck would i want a badge?’

      This is for the early adopter tech crowd only.

      This is the best post i’ve ever read about it http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/2010/04/checkins-are-coupons.html

      Don’t get me wrong, someone is going to walk away with a shit load of money but this isn’t a revolution

  • http://CityandOut AndreaF

    Well done to Dennis, everybody seems to be very fond of him so I guess he’s doing something right.
    As an observer who doesn’t use any of these check in apps, my view is that, although I see a huge potential in location focused businesses, the VC/techblogs/news hype machine is once again in over drive.
    Take a deep breath and look at the market carefully before crowning one or the other the King of Social Media. We are still early in the game and there are many interesting players around and it’s hard to see who is going to be successful in the long run.
    Kudos to Dennis nonetheless and to Andrew Scott for the new funding.

  • http://www.rummble.com Andrew J Scott

    Numbers are only half the picture, although MyTown (US) for example is reportedly nudging 3 million and TellMeWhere (EU) is well over 500,000, more than Gowalla I believe.

    What gets you numbers is a great product and coverage / PR. Crown off to Dens, Josh and co, they have both.

    My point is not that these guys don’t deserve coverage but that I feel WiredUK has a responsibility to provide balanced reporting – surely part of good journalism? As Mike suggest, how often does Wired US run a story about start-ups of similar (or larger) impact in Europe. Huddle.net on the cover of Wired US perhaps?

    Aside from start-ups, neither do they mention the looming impact Facebook or others, who may have a fundamental impact on the trajectory of all us LBS innovators.

    I’ve often ranted (usually with beer in hand ;) that UK / European media is too ready to embrace the new shiny thing from America while ignoring homegrown talent. Maybe it is has become habitual, inherited from the heritage of Hollywood and Hamburgers?

    I feel passionately that the UK tech media owes it to its readers to champion the ‘next big thing’ from home as well as the ‘next big thing’ Stateside. Coverage and exposure is key for any start-up with limited budgets, especially launching something new in the consumer space.

    Put simply, not even to have a side column in 8 PAGES of coverage, as to what not entirely dissimilar UK (or European) start-ups are doing, is a poor show on WiredUK’s part, IMHO.

    Meanwhile, we’ll no doubt catch up our U.S. counterparts next time we’re over the pond, including Dens, who’s looking seriously hot in that crown.

    • James Wykes

      “I feel WiredUK has a responsibility to provide balanced reporting – surely part of good journalism?”

      – What you call balanced may not be what someone else does.

  • http://www.dexmo.com Patrick DAlton Harrison

    As a subscriber to Wired UK think they should have also mentioned Rummble and the other EU start-ups. After all mobile usage is more advanced in the EU than the US. We need coverage of both.

    Also, not sure that one player will dominate, particularly when there are more local services – and it’s all about being local and on the ground.

    The EU market is more fragmented, but that gives startups here an advantage.

    BTW – if anyone from Wired UK reads this – mag is great. Much better than Wired US. I leave it on the kitchen table at home, my wife reads it and so do my geeky kids (6 & 10). They liked the articles on the missiles and Pixar in the current issue.

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  • http://twitter.com/timwhitlock Tim

    That would be “David Rowan”, not “Ravid Rowan” TC.

    The UK mag’s syndicating of US content without much editing is an area for improvement, but in this case I think the concentration on the major players was relevant. I would have liked to see Rummble in a side column though, just for balance.

    Personally I can’t get into Rummble, I think it’s far too complicated an app compared with the simplicity of Foursquare – that’s why Foursquare are winning (in my humble opinion) – not because they’re in the US

  • http://www.wired.co.uk David Rowan

    Thanks Mike/Patrick/Andrew
    Our starting point here was a sense that, among our (mostly UK) readers, Foursquare and Gowalla were generating most of the buzz and engagement. That seemed to be the big story. We publish WIRED in the UK, but our readers’ interests are pretty global. Yes, maybe we should have included a panel on Rummble, Tellmewhere, Loopt, et al, but this wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive survey. Still, our minds are open… always glad to receive editorial suggestions at editorial@wired.co.uk or via @wireduk.
    Tim – The stats tell us there’s v little overlap between US and UK WIRED readers (though I appreciate that some Techcrunch readers may occupy that overlap, for which thanks). UK has 85%+ unique content, but if there’s a great US feature we want to make it available to UK readers too.
    David Rowan, WIRED

  • Paul

    “Personally I can’t get into Rummble, I think it’s far too complicated an app compared with the simplicity of Foursquare – that’s why Foursquare are winning (in my humble opinion) – not because they’re in the US”


    I tried the Rummble iPhone app months before Foursquare, and found it impenetrable. Perhaps Wired UK should have at least doffed their cap to the likes of Rummble, but I’m not sure it’s Wired’s job to provide coverage to start-ups for the sake of it.

  • http://www.pcartisan.com David1984

    the people who hate the guy who was crowned are revolting. heh seems funny

  • http://www.streetspark.com Anthony Erwin

    Great article – I’m glad this issue is being debated so thanks Mike.
    As a London (location based) based startup (StreetSpark) when we first launched a few months ago I naively thought that being from the UK might help in generating local press. Not so. We have had a few mentions in the mainstream press but mainly alongside US players who’s focus is in the States and are not catering specifically to the UK market. So no real home advantage. Interestingly, we’ve had more success in Tech blogs in the US! Maybe it’s just that the idea suits the US market more but I think we would have had a much easier time, PR wise, had we started in the US. And that’s a shame for the UK tech scene.
    Sure we chose this game so can’t moan, but it would be great to see blogs bigging up the local guys a bit more.

  • http://www.speedcommunications.com John Brown

    Interesting debate, but an old one.

    I think Europe, not just the UK, is awful when it comes to blowing its own trumpet, especially within the tech startup scene. We are so nervous to stand up and be counted, just in-case those big, nasty US companies come along with a similar product and have a pop at us.

    The US are infinitely better at shouting about their entrepreneurs and startups. I dont think it is necessarily a pride thing, we are all proud of our startups here in the UK, what it is a loudmouth attitude and a ballsy approach to promoting….no evangelizing….your product.

    Rummble only has itself to blame. The column inches and airtime are there to be grasped – you just have to bloody scream to be heard and above all else believe in yourself. If a journalist, blogger or whatever hasn’t heard about you…….that is your fault not theirs.

  • bobby in brooklyn

    There are definitely lots of business angles for location-services like Four Square. But I believe the novelty of “mayor” badges will wear out soon enough. Plus naming badges “douchebag” isn’t the smartest move if you want to expand outside the hipster crowd.

  • Guillaume

    Something that I have never understood is why the Penetration rate of apps or services (at least the ones with a local component) was not considered to make fair comparisons instead of using absolute numbers of visitors….

    Internet is a Global marketplace for sure ! But I seriously doubt that “masses” have automatically and systematically an interest for what’s going on outside their frontier.

    As an example let’s compare a US based service with 3M visitors in US where the population is around 400M versus a UK based service with 500K visitors in UK where the population is around 62M who do you think has a better penetration?

    Well that’s a draw with a slight advantage for the UK based service….

    US based service has a 0.75% penetration rate and the UK based service has a 0.8% penetration rate.

    So why is that everybody talks about the US based service?

    IMHO the reasons why are:
    1. Excellent/better media coverage in the US than in UK
    2. A slight tendency in Europe to consider anything technical coming from the US as better or more interesting
    3. More VC funds in the US with a much less risk aversion than European VCs

    So at the end, much more advantages for the US based service to win the Global Internet Company battle than the UK one.

    I therefore basically agree with John Brown: as long as European start-up don’t managed to get enough coverage in the US (and I am not saying it’s who’s fault it is) winning such battles will be difficult for them.

    But clearly, some help from the European Media wouldn’t hurt…. At all !…

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  • Aaron Crayford

    This guy deserves it he’s creative, hustles like mad. None of what is happening on his path to success right now is accidental. Rock steady Dennis!

  • Sean

    Foursquare is blocked by my work and Rummble is not. That tells me who is bigger and should be on the cover or talked about.

  • http://nuttersmark.com Mark Nutter

    Does this remind anyone else of Kevin Rose’s Business Week cover?

    • anon

      The only thing Foursquare has going for it is an amazing PR team. The core service is garbage, poorly designed, highly impractical, and doesn’t follow through on the large promises Crowley seems to make in each one of his interviews.

  • WulfCry

    Oi if therz a revolt! I’m in got mi box off revolt thingies right here I have. Like torches , rotten tomato’s , and a list with faul remarks with other stuff.

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  • David Jones

    There are lots of European startups in a similar space (http://geomium.com, http://www.plyce.com to name a couple that haven’t already been mentioned), but the truth is none have made such a big impact as their US based counterparts. Maybe they will in time, but I think Wired UK is just telling it how it is!

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