Mossberg's feeling Smug
Walter Mossberg recommends SmugMug in last weeks Mossberg’s Mailbox. There’s a lot of pain with many online photo-sharing sites, especially because many of them will hold your original photos hostage and delete them with little-to-no notice. I’m honored that he would recommend us to anyone feeling the pain from sub-par photo-sharing sites.
You see, Walt Mossberg is the world’s premiere technology journalist because he’s different. Instead of approaching technology from a geek’s point of view, where the technical specs, the buzz, and what the technology is supposed to accomplish is king, he approaches it from a consumer’s point of view: how well does it work, how easy is it to use, and how reliable is it. And then he tells you how it really is, no holds barred.
Pillars of the tech world such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates hang on his every word. AFAIK, he’s the only one to actually get them on stage together at the same conference. For the record, he doesn’t pull any punches at D, either – he asks the hard questions that actual consumers would ask if only they could get their hands on Steve or Bill for a few minutes.
I remember sitting in his office last year, watching him nod his head and resonate with much of what we had to say. It was thrilling. But the best part came when he asked us the really hard questions. The kind that make me want to rush back to the office and feverishly work on improvements right that second. The one I remember most was “Are my photos stored in multiple locations?” I was honest – we kept multiple copies of each photo, but only in one location. Clearly, he wasn’t buying it. And his point was a valid one – every year we have customers who are overjoyed to find out the photos they lost in the hurricane/earthquake/fire were safe and sound at SmugMug. Our data is extremely valuable to our customers.
We’re a customer-focused, customer-driven company. I’m afraid to say we don’t have much time to do competitive research because we’re too busy acting on customer suggestions and feedback. I wish I could say that I give every customer’s input the same weight I gave Walt’s, but it just isn’t true – the double-whammy of being a journalist I respect greatly and a customer gave him an edge. We put multiple locations high on the list, and we now have it – our photos are stored in multiple datacenters, in multiple states, at multiple companies. And one of those companies is worth billions.
For many other journalists, singling us out like he did would take courage. Afterall, we spend all of our time and energy answering customer emails and making the product better while our competitors are from huge companies with huge PR departments who go to all the trade shows, conventions, and call the journalists non-stop to sell their wares. But for Walt, I’m sure this didn’t pose a problem. He and his assistants actually use the products rather than just listening to the company’s pitch. His only criteria is the quality, reliability, and accessibility of the product, not the amount of PR dollars you spend.
We’re honored to be on his radar.