Today, I received the following e-mail. At the sender’s request, I have removed any personal details:
I was wondering if you had any advice for me about how to perform some marketing/pr for my Linux [project]. I’ve started doing interviews with developers and I have created a community news site.
But is there anyway I could possibly get [my project] mentioned in a
magazine like Linux Journal? Is there any free advertising I could take advantage of on certain web sites? I thought you may have some ideas for me because you have experience with this kind of thing. Any help you
could provide me would be appreciated.
I generally receive about 3-4 requests of this sort a year, so I decided to post my reply here, so I can refer others to it:
You’re not likely to find free advertising on sites that will do you any good, so your best bet is to try to get on the various sites as a contributor. Linux.com only takes original material for its main features, but it does have the NewsVac items, the three or four line link summaries on the right of the page that are very popular. And, of course, sites like Slashdot, Digg, and Linux Today are all about links to already published material.
If you have a solid piece of news — which for a piece of free software usually means new releases and unique features — at Linux.com you can pitch a story and write it yourself. However, you’ll be asked to include a disclaimer
that explains your connection with your subject matter, and the article will be rejected if you are being a fanboy. That means you can’t review your own distro, but you might be able to do a tutorial on a distribution’s packaging system, for instance.
Alternatively, you can send news releases in the hopes of convincing either an editor or a writer to cover your news. However, don’t be pushy. Submitting a news release once is enough, and popping back several times to ask if it was received or whether anyone is interested will probably only guarantee that you’ll annoy people so that they won’t cover your news no matter how big it is.
The ideal is to build up an ongoing relation with a few writers, in which you give them stories to write about — we’re always looking — and they give you the coverage you want when you have news that readers might want to hear.
Of course, you open yourself up to negative comments if the software deserves them, but that’s the chance you have to take. However, for the most part, both commercial companies and large community projects find the
risk well worth taking. It’s not as though any of the regular writers deliberately sit down to review with a determination to be negative (although, conversely, they don’t set out to praise, either: We’re not just fans, either).
This process doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient. But, in the long run, you should get some of the publicity you seek.
I don’t know whether this information is useful to others. To me, it seems that I’m saying the obvious, but part of that reaction is undoubtedly due to the fact that I deal with these things daily. Perhaps to others, these thoughts aren’t obvious, so I’m hoping that someone will find them useful