The flattening of the press world

A dirty little secret about PR: they give certain press “exclusives” to try to get the story out better. This still goes on all the time. Why does Walt Mossberg or Steven Levy write about something before everyone else does? Cause PR types work with them to build trust, build relationships, and then reward that trust with an exclusive.

Trouble is that the world of PR is changing. Back in the 1980s you only needed to deal with a few people to get the message out. But now a kid sitting in Australia with only a handful of readers can go from obscurity to the front page of the New York Times in, what, 48 hours? (I’ve seen pretty much just that happen).

Now every single one of us has the power to have “the exclusive.” It really is messing with PR team’s heads as they try to deal with this new world of 20,000,000 people who can make or break your PR plans. It was so much easier back when you only needed to deal with a few hundred or less.

What am I talking about? Well, look at Ed Bott’s article in ZDNet. There are two forces arguing these issues inside of Microsoft. I’m here at the Blog Business Summit’s editorial meeting and I’m hearing stories of the same thing playing out all over the place. “Do we treat bloggers as press?” If so, how?

Are we seeing the death of the exclusive? I hope so. That’s what I’m fighting for. The “Z list” should have access to info as soon as the “A list” does.

I just want NDA rules that apply the same to everyone. What do you think?

Update: Chris Pirillo writes that the scoop no longer exists. Oh, Chris, we all want credit for our work! But, he’s right. To me it’s just “are you part of the conversation?” Do you want to be and are you being locked out? Then let’s fix that!

70 thoughts on “The flattening of the press world

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  3. Robert … The “exclusive” may not be totally dead for marketing/PR people and executives, but for developers I think it’s pretty much toast. I can’t think of a story about OpenSolaris that has appeared in the press before it appeared in our blogs and/or on our mail lists. There may be a few out there but not very many. In fact, what gets me is the massive amount of “news” our community generates quite openly that never makes it into the press! Most developers don’t care, of course, and neither do I. Many do, however, and it offers an innovative marketing/PR pro an opportunity to mine the blogs and mail lists for stories and context and to point a reporter to that conversation so he/she can engage. That may not be an “exclusive” but it’s a gallon of news nonetheless and it’s just sitting there. Here’s the catch, though: for marketing and PR people to be able to do this they *must* join the community and participate as openly as everyone else does. You can’t fake this, you can’t do it from the outside, and you can’t do it from the perspective of an executive client — it has to be done from the context of the developers within the community. That’s the only way to earn trust in a meritocracy — join and participate. The information is open, the developers are open, so the marketing has to be open as well. Layering a traditional marketing/PR strategy of “exclusives” (which favors someone special and closes someone else out) over the top of an open community is counterproductive.

  4. Robert … The “exclusive” may not be totally dead for marketing/PR people and executives, but for developers I think it’s pretty much toast. I can’t think of a story about OpenSolaris that has appeared in the press before it appeared in our blogs and/or on our mail lists. There may be a few out there but not very many. In fact, what gets me is the massive amount of “news” our community generates quite openly that never makes it into the press! Most developers don’t care, of course, and neither do I. Many do, however, and it offers an innovative marketing/PR pro an opportunity to mine the blogs and mail lists for stories and context and to point a reporter to that conversation so he/she can engage. That may not be an “exclusive” but it’s a gallon of news nonetheless and it’s just sitting there. Here’s the catch, though: for marketing and PR people to be able to do this they *must* join the community and participate as openly as everyone else does. You can’t fake this, you can’t do it from the outside, and you can’t do it from the perspective of an executive client — it has to be done from the context of the developers within the community. That’s the only way to earn trust in a meritocracy — join and participate. The information is open, the developers are open, so the marketing has to be open as well. Layering a traditional marketing/PR strategy of “exclusives” (which favors someone special and closes someone else out) over the top of an open community is counterproductive.

  5. Ahhh, this is discussion is getting too ‘us vs. them’ polarized, as is typical of blog flame fests. It’s like Dot.Commie ‘No Copyrights’ vs. iron-handed facist-tactics RIAA, both are wrong.

    Scoble thinks blogs have flattened things, Rubel says control is always needed, indeed worked into the fabric of the system itself. Both are wrong. PR as information gatekeeper was never correct to begin with, but the idea of a blog revolution making this happen is downright farcical.

    Playing favorites never works, why does Silicon Valley justify the byzantine maze-like structure of NDAs and hoop jumping? But that’s an easy question to answer, it reduces ego power and kills bubbles. Hence Sarbanes Oxley-like approaches are exactly what is needed, and indeed REQUIRED now.

    Controlling access to information is NEVER called “marketing”. And open betas are a management and time-consumption problem, not a marketing problem.

    But exclusives aren’t dead, you are just looking at it from the wrong end. Even PR pros don’t have access to all the information all the time, nor contextually lay it out. It takes the sniffer, the investigative reporter (or blogger if you will) type to sniff said info out. You need someone to tie together seemingly disparate threads into a cohesive whole. That doesn’t happen from PR and generally doesn’t happen from bloggers.

    Sarbanes Oxley ahoy. The more the Valley and PR whines about the ‘record-keeping requirements’ of Sox, the more you know it was exactly what was needed.

  6. Ahhh, this is discussion is getting too ‘us vs. them’ polarized, as is typical of blog flame fests. It’s like Dot.Commie ‘No Copyrights’ vs. iron-handed facist-tactics RIAA, both are wrong.

    Scoble thinks blogs have flattened things, Rubel says control is always needed, indeed worked into the fabric of the system itself. Both are wrong. PR as information gatekeeper was never correct to begin with, but the idea of a blog revolution making this happen is downright farcical.

    Playing favorites never works, why does Silicon Valley justify the byzantine maze-like structure of NDAs and hoop jumping? But that’s an easy question to answer, it reduces ego power and kills bubbles. Hence Sarbanes Oxley-like approaches are exactly what is needed, and indeed REQUIRED now.

    Controlling access to information is NEVER called “marketing”. And open betas are a management and time-consumption problem, not a marketing problem.

    But exclusives aren’t dead, you are just looking at it from the wrong end. Even PR pros don’t have access to all the information all the time, nor contextually lay it out. It takes the sniffer, the investigative reporter (or blogger if you will) type to sniff said info out. You need someone to tie together seemingly disparate threads into a cohesive whole. That doesn’t happen from PR and generally doesn’t happen from bloggers.

    Sarbanes Oxley ahoy. The more the Valley and PR whines about the ‘record-keeping requirements’ of Sox, the more you know it was exactly what was needed.

  7. this seems to assuming the majority of any population puts bloggers on their list of “news” sources. That’s not even close to being the case. Until people stop paying for news, bloggers will still be an echo chamber the serves miniscule percentage of the overall market. As long as there’s still $ to made off of news, there will be the need for PR and “exclusives”. Scoble, get it through your head… you reach fewer people than the worst rated TV show on the lowest rated cable channel.

  8. this seems to assuming the majority of any population puts bloggers on their list of “news” sources. That’s not even close to being the case. Until people stop paying for news, bloggers will still be an echo chamber the serves miniscule percentage of the overall market. As long as there’s still $ to made off of news, there will be the need for PR and “exclusives”. Scoble, get it through your head… you reach fewer people than the worst rated TV show on the lowest rated cable channel.

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