Originally Posted August 28, 2011
See the Fast Company article. Servio just earned its first byline in a major, national publication. Journalist Adam Penenberg hired us to “crowdsource” his column for him and then published the story and wrote about the results. Our comments below will make more sense if you read the story first.
While it was a lot of fun to work on the piece, we never expected that we’d best a writer of Adam’s caliber. We were curious to see how our high-volume factory-oriented process would work with something as hand-crafted as a story like this, but we don’t purport to be a replacement for a journalist writing a feature story for a major national magazine.
Ironically, because the piece was written about us, we actually had less ability to tweak the output than we normally would have to ensure quality. Because there was already inherent bias built into the piece, we were very careful to have as little direct influence on the final results as possible. We didn’t tell the writers to lean one way or the other, and we were just as amused as everyone else when we first saw things like the over-the-top descriptions of our co-founders.
Given that, we were very pleased with the final results, and more than a few people who read it objectively suggested that the Servio story held its own.
Adam mentioned that our writers ignored his questions about revenue, weaknesses, and competition and went significantly over the requested word count. We really struggled with how to handle these questions. As a privately-held startup we don’t release revenue numbers, and we couldn’t make an exception in this case. The question on weaknesses was ironically answered in part by my quote that we’re good at delivering a “factory line” result and not at “hand-modded” content–for example, pieces that involve significant amounts of iterative work, in-person interviews, etc., like a feature profile.
Adam’s original question on the topic asked our writers to find clients of ours who were unhappy with our work. Our writers don’t generally hold back, and we’re pretty sure that if there were actually clients out there who weren’t happy and wanted to air it in public, they’d have been glad to write about it.
Regarding the competition question and word count: Adam had originally given us 20 questions, many of which called for detailed answers. We actually had copy in our original materials on our competition, but we were already going far beyond the initial word count. The CloudCrowd editor working on the piece made a call that it was a profile on Servio, and that if something had to go it should be the non-Servio related content, so he cut the discussion of our competitors.
Servio’s model has evolved since Adam first tweeted the seed idea for the story back in August 2010, and since then our focus has been on what we call “industrial-strength content engineering”.
Our sweet spot is creating and enhancing high volumes of content for companies like Target who need tens of thousands of product descriptions or category articles written. They can’t scale it in-house or with freelancers, and they can’t offshore it while maintaining their brand voice. They need solid writing, but nothing at the level of a writer like Adam.
The bottom line is that while we think the quality of the story we put together speaks for itself, we appreciate great writing and we enjoyed Adam’s article about the process as much as anyone. The world is a better place with people like Adam writing the stories they do, and we are pretty sure that isn’t going to change any time soon.