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Is a big launch better than a small quiet launch?

Here’s a question to ponder over the Christmas weekend.

When launching a web application, is it better to plan a big launch and pursue as much publicity as you can, or instead do a private beta launch and take it slow?

It appears to me that the private beta launch can actually backfire.

Here’s why I think that.

Nobody wants to report on old news… and if the media finds out about your web app a month after it has gone live, why bother reporting on it. Plus, if you grow at a slower pace with a small launch but your server stays up, what does that say about demand?

I would much rather have a spectacular launch with my server barely keeping up on day #1. It would mean that there is something popular about your service and demand is high.

The other thing I’ve discovered is that there is an intense desire among those reporting Web 2.0 to be first. The biggest players in the business (you know who they are) will not report news unless they have the edge. So you have to be careful about who you tell first. Giving the biggest players a launch timetable or a “window” and letting them be “first” could be a good strategy for day 1.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a lot of experience in this, so I’m just reporting what I think I know.

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  1. I think it’s better to not worry about all the outside factors, and just launch — big, small whatever — just launch.

    I used to spend too much time worrying about the so called “first mover advantage” (which I now don’t put much credence in anymore) and all the what if scenarios of how deep I would be buried if one of the big boys caught on to what I was doing, of if someone with much better programming / design skills took my idea and made it “better”…

    I’ve even wasted time on worrying about the music / entertainment “one hit wonder” model of doing something great and following it up with disappointments consisting of version iterations or even other projects.

    The fact though, when it all comes down to it, we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world. There are apps and sites a plenty out there who started out great, and then faded into oblivion, because the follow-ups couldn’t capture the same level of excitement as the original. Alternatively, there are the same number of sites out there that started off with the unenthusiastic “nah” and have slowly grown into the biggest, most popular and profitable web properties around today.

    I guess the question is, if you go big to start out, can you maintain that level of excitement over the long term? Or if you go small, do you have enough ammunition to eventually generate excitement?

    The answer to that should be the only thing driving how you release — everything else is bloat that’ll wear you down physically and emotionally.

    NOTE: You is being used generically here.

  2. Hi Mark, that’s some great feedback. I think you’re right. It’s more about the long term than it is about the short term. If you read the Ten Worst Internet Acquisitions Ever you’ll see the perfect result of “what have you done for me lately.”

    As a result, it’s really more about what plans you have for making your product the best it can be 1 year, and 2 years, and 5 years down the road. And never failing to do something new.