Ideally, every Softletter story should offer a valuable benefit or important insight to the reader. We see Softletter primarily as a business newsletter, not as a technology or news publication. That means we try to offer solutions to industry-wide business problems of marketing, product development, corporate management, business modeling, pricing, and turnarounds. We particularly like to interview people with fresh insight and unorthodox views of the software world.
In particular, we pay attention to leading edge topics, such as new channels of distribution or new business models. We assume our readers are well grounded in traditional marketing and development skills, but look to Softletter to hear first about how their industry might be changing. (For instance, we were among the first to talk about direct mail campaigns, fee-based support, and electronic distribution.)
We're also intensely interested in numbers. We produce a lot of hard statistical data, often in new areas where no one has compiled any research before. And just about every story we write includes some discussion of measurable results, costs, time, prices, and the like. We know this data is important to our readers, and we expect the people we interview to be willing to share at least some of their key numbers.
Another common focus for us might be called "expert tips." We often interview consultants and specialists who can distill their knowledge into a few tight, actionable suggestions. Here, it's important to remember that we're addressing a very experienced audience, so the advice really has to offer deep insights, not textbook advice.
We're also receptive to stories based on major speeches and presentations, especially if a recording and slides are available.
Finally, there are several kinds of stories that are probably a waste of time to pitch to us:
Emerging categories: Public relations people are fond of inventing new application and technology categories, presumably to lend an air of credibility to a relatively unknown product. However, these pitches almost never demonstrate that the new category will have an impact on the rest of the software industry. Be ready to demonstrate that your category is valid and truly emerging before contacting us with this claim. We strongly suggest someone at your company read the positioning section of The Product Marketing Handbook for Software before making new category claims.
Cute startups: We get lots of calls about "interesting" new companies. Often these publishers have little more than a half-finished product and an untested marketing strategy. We're personally enthusiastic about entrepreneurship, but we prefer to see startups court prospective customers—not the press. If you think we should be looking at your company, we strongly suggest you have significant reference accounts we can talk to.
Products: Softletter doesn't review products (though we will take a look at new or interesting titles for the purposes of industry analysis). We're sometimes asked about major products by the trade and business press, so we'll consider meeting with publishers who want to demo a high-visibility title. But even then, our emphasis is likely to be on business issues rather than specific product features.
Anything well-publicized elsewhere: In general, we're careful to avoid stories that have appeared in the general press or other newsletters. Even when we offer a unique perceptive, readers tend to see these stories as me-too coverage.