An Embargo on Embargoes

By Matter

The Wall Street Journal modified its editorial policy last week and will no longer participate in embargoed news herds, only holding news when dealing with an exclusive. This policy change might sound familiar – in December 2008 TechCrunch also declared that it would no longer honor embargoes.

Online media outlets continue to push the boundaries of traditional journalism, rapidly releasing news with no respect to embargoes and leaving well-respected news sources like The Wall Street Journal to take matters into their own hands to compete.

The loss of the sacred embargo is frightening to PR professionals, but it also makes us stop to think about the importance of quality hits over quantity. When you distribute an embargoed story to your entire media list, can you really expect the best results? Can we blame the outlets that have taken a stance against this approach? Probably not.

The Bad Pitch Blog is full of examples on how the ‘spray and pray’ approach has repeatedly gotten PR professionals in hot water. A skilled PR professional knows quality results come from establishing strong media relationships through strategic pitching and exclusive opportunities give you the most bang for your buck. In the end, those who didn’t get the exclusive will probably still run the news because an outlet as esteemed as The Wall Street Journal ran it.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the world of media. The new policy could have a positive effect on The Wall Street Journal with an increased the number of breaking news exclusives coming their way. And I don’t know a client that wouldn’t give up a few mediocre hits for some ink in The Wall Street Journal, do you? Is this move the beginning of a trend? Will the embargo on embargoes really filter down through to other print publications?