Currency and questions

By Matter

Michael Arrington’s recent post about his exchanges with the PR group at Fortune have stirred up some lively discussions – online and around the office. We’ve kept the profanity that is common among TechCrunch commentators out of our debates, but have nonetheless tried to get to the right side of the debate.

I’ll summarize it for you, in case you missed it: The PR team at Fortune reached out to Arrington, offering exclusive posts of The Facebook Effect. In Arrington’s words, “[The rules] were fine. We’d print the excerpts. And we’d link to Fortune. We don’t get much out of that deal, but… we want to support Kirkpatrick and I figured Fortune could owe us a favor.”

After the posts went live, Fortune changed its mind. As Tina Fey might say, they asked for a do-over. The Fortune team wanted Arrington to post excerpts of the excerpts – not the whole excerpt. Sounds crazy, but the publisher cried copyright infringement.

The lessons are numerous, but three really stand out. First, there’s the obvious – that favors are still big currency. Online and off. Make sure you know what you’re being asked, and what you’re asking of others. Secondly, poke holes in plans –someone in Fortune’s PR department should have played out various scenarios and asked more questions (what if they run the full excerpt? Is that the desired outcome? Is it allowed?). And finally, whether you like it or not, remember that your emails are public.