Open source and PR

Summary:Nathan Willis suggests that open source could take a cue from Apple's PR department. Specifically, Willis says that open source projects would do well to emulate Apple's PR practices, given that Apple manages to garner huge amounts of news coverage each time they do product announcements.

Nathan Willis suggests that open source could take a cue from Apple's PR department. Specifically, Willis says that open source projects would do well to emulate Apple's PR practices, given that Apple manages to garner huge amounts of news coverage each time they do product announcements.

There are some definite advantages, from the reporter's viewpoint, of working with a company like Apple, as opposed to a project like GNOME or FreeBSD. First of all, Apple has a dedicated PR staff that will respond to press requests pretty quickly. Covering open source projects on deadline can be difficult, if you don't know who to get in touch with. Some projects have a press contact or press mailing list, which may or may not result in a speedy reply.

Willis also comments that GNOME's recent release notes are "bland, wordy and contain no real specifics." Having read my share of press releases, I can say that applies to most press releases I've ever read. For all of Apple's news coverage, their press releases aren't exactly riveting reading either, though much better than many of their peers in the IT industry. I could write a smallish book on the sad state of press releases in IT in general, but that's another subject for another time.

Some projects, like OpenOffice.org, The Mozilla Project and PostgreSQL do well at PR. They maintain press kits, press contacts and start contacting the press ahead of new releases to get coverage.

The big question here is whether increased PR will translate into success for open source projects. Apple, as I've pointed out before, would have a much larger market share than it does if press coverage translated directly into sales. Apple gets plenty of coverage, but it's far out of proportion with their share of the market -- and all the coverage doesn't seem to be making that much difference.

So, assuming open source projects start doing the PR thing really well, is that going to make any difference in the long run? Linux gets plenty of coverage, but that hasn't put it over the top in the desktop market.

What do you think? Should open source projects get their PR game on, or keep their heads down and keep coding? Tell me in the TalkBack section.

Topics: Open Source

About

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

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