Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has dropped a big bomb on the world of public relations by declaring that TC will no longer honor embargoes from PR firms. (There are caveats, of course. If the news is exclusive to TC or if you on on a very short list of favorite flacks, you’ll still get your embargo honored.)
The rationale, Arrington writes, is that no other media outlets really honor embargoes anyhow, making them worthless, defeating their purpose. That by itself wouldn’t be so bad, but he points out that the world of PR is so competitive that most firms can’t afford to hand out any negative consequences for breaking an embargo. The flacks just go right back to work with the same people who just broke their embargo, maybe with a few sharp words, but that’s it. In Arrington’s words:
We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.
Some firms will stop talking to us (yeah! less email), but we’ll find other ways to get the news. Others, who haven’t read this post because they don’t read TechCrunch, will be unpleasantly surprised. Maybe if we cause enough pain then PR firms will start to take action against those publications who break the rules.
I more or less work in public relations, but my situation is odd. I work for a university news service, meaning that I’m half reporter and half flack. In my time at the service, we have never issued an embargo, but the service has honored the embargoes set by academic journals when they publish our faculty’s papers. Really, for the world of academic news, retention and university recruiting — my world — Arrington’s line in the sand approach won’t have much of an effect, ripple or influential or otherwise.
But I thought it was worth posting about, since Arrington’s announcement has set off a small firestorm of comments on TC and dozens of other sites.