TechCrunch, the Michael Arrington-led blog about all things Web 2.0, has declared “Death to the Embargo.”
In what amounts to a temper tantrum by a frustrated, jealous child, Arrington has announced that “from now on, 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.”
Why TechCrunch is Pouting
Here, in a nutshell, is how PR works: A PR agency, on behalf of a client, pitches a story to a publication. In some cases, the agency places an embargo on the story — essentially, a request to the publisher to hold the story until a certain date/time, usually for strategic reasons.
In the past, most publishers honored these embargoes. But with the rise of blogger journalists, there are more players, more competitors, and more pressure to be first.
TechCrunch’s hissy fit boils down to this: They’re getting scooped by other bloggers, and they’re jealous.
TechCrunch’s Response is Childish
Arrington’s response to a legitimate (if irrelevant) gripe is childish. Other bloggers scoop your publication by breaking embargoes, so you fire off a big “F you!” to the PR industry? Why not just cross your arms and stick out your tongue?
Arrington realizes he’s the big fish — the publication every up-and-coming tech firm wants coverage from. Rather than working with PR firms and their clients on this “problem,” TechCrunch is taking a defiant, adversarial approach. That’s not leadership — it’s bullying.
Breaking the rules because everyone else is breaking them is a pretty passive-aggressive response. TechCrunch is missing a golden opportunity to leverage its position as a key player in the publishing industry to lead a constructive dialogue on PR and journalism. Such a display of maturity would go a long way toward giving Web 2.0 mainstream credibility and giving Arrington a seat at the big boy table.
Who is Michael Arrington Mad At?
It’s not clear from his rant who Michael Arrington is really mad at. Is he mad at bloggers for scooping him? Is he mad at PR agencies for imposing embargoes, or for not enforcing them? Or for not giving him exclusives? Or for pestering him to write stories (which, by the way, is what PR agencies have done for ages)?
Or is he just mad at himself for losing ground to no-name bloggers?
What, really, is his protest about? Arrington declares “death to embargoes,” but his diatribe opens with a rant wholly unrelated to embargoes:
Tech companies are desperate for press and [are] hammering their PR firms for coverage on blogs and major media sites. That in turn means that PR firms hammer us to get us to write about their clients. Gone are the days of polite pitches and actual relationship building. Today, PR firms email a story to us as many as 20 times, and call every TechCrunch writer on their cell phones repeatedly.
Guess what, dude: That’s the price you pay for being popular. You’ve built the most popular technology blog on the Web and you’ve amassed a killer audience. People are gonna hound you to write about them. Get used to it — it comes with the territory.
What Arrington seems to forget is that TechCrunch would be nothing if it weren’t for tech companies and their PR reps giving him inside dish when he was just a scrawny start-up.
End Result: Yawn.
Of course, as countless TechCrunch readers point out in the comments on the post, all of this is irrelevant. TechCrunch will still write stories about tech firms. PR agencies will keep fighting to get their clients publicity. Net change = 0.
No, that’s not totally true. There is one change: Tech companies, PR firms, and readers now see TechCrunch for what it is — an overgrown toddler with hurt feelings.
You’re a big-time publisher, Arrington. Stop pouting and starting acting like one.