Entering a crowded category… CrunchGear

I was reading Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch this morning and as I did, I saw the text ads in every TechCrunch post advertising Michael’s “CrunchGear” site, a relatively new addition to his network of sites and a competitor to sites like Gizmodo and Engadget. All the ads were, in my opinion, pretty generic: “CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware”.

Now Gizmodo and Engadget were pretty well-established and successful in this category when CrunchGear was launched. So, if I’m looking for a gadget fix, I’m going to head over to Engadget or Gizmodo — it’s simply what I’m trained to do at this point, they’ve already proven themselves to me.

CrunchGear has a couple of ways to edge into my mindshare when it comes gadget sites — they can scoop their competitors on hot, new gadgets and/or they can be different, addressing the problems/complaints of Engadget/Gizmodo readers or simply innovating in the category.

For the first method (scooping their competitors), there’s no promotion to be done — if they scoop someone else on something hot, they’ll get linked to and mentioned for it.

For the second method, TechCrunch could definitely be doing a better job of promoting how CrunchGear is different… and here I’m assuming that CrunchGear is actually different. But maybe that’s not a safe assumption considering that one of the few things I know about CrunchGear is that they hired the former editor of Gizmodo to run the site. An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? What CrunchGear should be doing is burning Gizmodo and Engadget in effigy every day and working to redefine the category. I consider myself a gadget guy, but I’m not a regular Engadget or Gizmodo reader. Why? Because their post volume is too high! I’ve always been interested in fewer posts from a gadget site. And I’ve also wanted more vision and more analysis of trends, something I remember Engadget used to provide in a weekly column by some third party person, but I always wanted like 10 of these a week and I wanted them to be accompanied by lots of photographs of cool shiny gadgets.

And once CrunchGear has their differentiation (and like I said, maybe they already have that differentiation and edge — I wouldn’t know), they need to trumpet that difference in their ads, in their posts and everywhere else they have an audience willing to listen. In my mind, their “CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware” ad translates to “CrunchGear just another gadget site like the rest” and that’s lethal when their trying to edge into a space that already has some big winners.