I’ve spent the past few days debating if I should post this at all. I finally decided that this is an important issue many bloggers are facing and wanted to start a discussion on this topic.
I’ve been working on HackingNetflix.com since last fall. I like Netflix (I’ve been a subscriber since September, 2002) and wanted to start a blog to discover and share information about this company. The blog has since grown, and I’ve built up a community of people that visit, comment, and exchange e-mails with me. I really enjoy working on this project.
I’ve worked in the technology field since 1985. I’ve worked in technical support, programming, marketing, sales, and many years in public relations. I’ve won many industry awards for companies, including a PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, InfoWorld’s Best in Class, and even the highest software award, a “Codie” from the SIIIA.
I’ve approached Netflix public relations twice since I started HackingNetflix.com. The first time was to ask if I could be added to the press list, and they declined. No big deal, I can get the releases from other sources.
I approached Netflix last week with the intention of running an “Ask Netflix” story. The plan was to ask you, my loyal readers, for questions to present to Netflix for answers. I would e-mail the questions to Netflix public relations, and they could answer them at their leisure. I called them, and when they didn’t call me back, I e-mailed the idea.
Here’s my original e-mail:
From: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 1:41 PM
Subject: Working on a new "Ask Netflix" column...
I am working on a new "Ask Netflix" story for my Web site,
www.HackingNetflix.com. I would like to put out a request for
questions, edit them, and then send them to you for response (you can
always decline to answer a question).
Are you willing to participate in this story? HackingNetflix.com gets a
lot of traffic and has a very loyal group of Netflix fans. I know there
are questions not answered by your FAQ that people would like answers
I would also like to know if I can arrange to get a tour of a
distribution center (I live in Connecticut, so a local one would be
I promise to keep this friendly (I do like you guys).
Just out of curiosity, have you seen HackingNetflix.com before?
This is a very common request for public relations departments, and I’ve been on the receiving end of these, so I tried to make it easy for the Netflix people to handle.
This is the response I received from Netflix:
We appreciate your interest in Netflix, but we must decline your request at
this time. Thank you for your zeal for Netflix and we wish you the best for
I was seriously disappointed. When I worked in public relations I tried hard to answer every phone or e-mail request, no matter how small the publication. I spoke at user groups at every opportunity (and public speaking used to make me physically ill!). Blogs are a small online community, just like a journal or user group.
I think most companies don’t get blogs yet. I know Netflix public relations is concerned with making USA Today and the New York Times happy, but how can you ignore a community that has tens of thousands of your customers? I had 1,000 people visit my site today, plus an untold number that read my site through RSS and Atom feeds. If you do the math it’s easily 20 – 30,000 readers a month (and growing!).
I know I’m not alone. It’s hard to get companies to take bloggers seriously. I really like Netflix, but they are slowly withdrawing, closing themselves off from their customers (they recently removed their phone numbers from the site). Instead, companies should be embracing these online communities, comprised mostly of the highly desired “early adopters” that evangelize products to the general population.