A Guide To Guest Columns On TechCrunch

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TechCrunch has been running guest columns since the early days. Here’s one about The State of Online Feed Readers from 2006 (hey, it was a hot topic back then!). But times have changed (not just for RSS!), and today we actually have a fairly formal system for how we handle blatant self-promotion these types of articles.

Because nothing bugs us more than complaints about guest columns, we thought we’d make it clear how things work now. Those of you who would like to publish guest posts with us going forward, please read this closely. For those of you who’d like to continue complaining about our guest posting process, just stop reading now. Okay, let’s start with the basics.

Why does TechCrunch publish guest columns? 

For the same reason that almost every other publication in the world has a long-standing tradition of publishing guest columns: filler quality content. No in-house writing team knows everything about what they cover; Sometimes it makes sense to bring in outside folks who have a new insight into a topic that our readers care about, like Ben Horowitz’s paean to struggling founders, Myspace Tom’s take on photo apps or this random post on ecommerce by recording artist NAS.

What is our publishing plan for guest columns?

We run almost all of them on the weekends, Friday night through Sunday. There are a few reasons we do this.

One is that we don’t want to work during the weekends we want to create more of a long-form reading experience — fewer, deeper posts to balance out the flood of news we dump on the world every week. (Look for the weekend articles from our editorial team to continue going in this direction as well.)

The next reason is that weekend posts tend to get more traffic on average. We want people who publish with us to get the attention they deserve. Again, this is because weekday articles are competing against all of our other stories as well as the broader news cycle for attention. If a guest post isn’t hard news, which almost none of them are, then it will almost certainly get buried. We do make exceptions every now and then if we think a post is newsy enough.

Third, our staff works super hard during the week, and while we also write and edit over the weekend, we don’t want to work during the weekends do need some sort of break here and there while keeping the site fresh.

Okay, so you want to pen a post for us. What should you be thinking about?

Two simple rules to follow. 

1. Say something new. TechCrunch readers are particularly well-informed, not only because they read us obviously, but because they read other tech news sites, aggregators like Techmeme and Hacker News, and a wide variety of other personal blogs and forums.

Most of our readers know that socially oriented enterprise products are becoming more popular in businesses, for example, or that mobile is becoming more important than the web. If you submit a post that says something you read elsewhere, we’ve almost certainly read it too — and we won’t run your piece.

If you think people don’t get that entrepreneurship is hard, it’s up to you to clearly explain why. And up to us whether we post that explanation.

2. Say something that even your competitors will appreciate.

Too many submissions we get are clearly just pitches for a company, attempting to masquerade as thought pieces, a press release dressed as a guest post. Sure, this caveat is naturally more complicated, because very often the author is actually knowledgeable on the problem their company is trying to solve.

But we simply won’t run advertorials by and for companies, because it’s gross.  Come on, you know it’s gross. It’s up to you to find the balance between your business interests and a reasonable discussion of topics that are also relevant to everybody else. If that’s not possible, but the post is still valuable, we’ll treat it like a pitch and send it along for our editorial staff to consider writing about. Hehehehe.

What about general advice for startups? 

Maybe the post-exit entrepreneurs who read us don’t need to know the basics of starting a company, but TechCrunch has always been a place for people to come who are just getting started (that was certainly the case for me, Eric, way back in 2005).

Honestly, we’re still figuring out how to best serve everyone while still serving our readers first. For now, if you’d like to contribute startup advice, please focus as much as you can on what’s new, what’s interesting and what people should understand about startups but don’t.

Also we usually don’t pay for guest columns unless they are exceptional, in which case we hire those people on as freelancers.

Capiche? Alright, now, please get in touch with us here to share your pitches great ideas: guestcolumns at techcrunch dot com.