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Tech Journalists Getting Fed Up With NDAs and Embargos

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I read Molly Wood’s Inside tech journalism: the NDA game with great interest for two reasons.

Link: Inside tech journalism: the NDA game

  1. I’ve wondered when the tech journalists were going to get fed up enough to start complaining about the problem.
  2. I’m involved in discussions about who to NDA in advance of a product launch, worries about leaks, and related stuff. We had one (discussion, not leak) just yesterday, in fact.

While her article is mainly aimed at hardware/gadget companies, much of it also applies to the hosted application and media/content businesses. You probably don’t know what the next product Yahoo is going to launch is, do you? To steal a line from Top Gun, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.

What about Google? They’re not exactly standing on the street corners, waving signs that signal their next product. (But you can assume they’ll whip out that 20% time thing.) MSN? Same thing.

It’s clear that the way PR, Marketing, NDAs, and Embargos work is changing. I routinely get solicitations from PR firms asking me to look at a pre-announcement or listen to a pre-briefing. Some do this because I’m on their media list via my Linux Magazine affiliation. But an increasing number of this specifically mention my blog.

As Molly says:

We media types need to quit kowtowing to manufacturers who are trying in vain to hold on to the last shred of control they think they have. Those manufacturers need to wake up and smell the RSS feeds–the information’s already out there. Quit acting like you’re doling out spoonfuls of sugar to the deserving few. Your audience is getting its sugar elsewhere.

I’ve noticed that in industries where the competition isn’t quite as insane as ours, the players are far more concerned about getting coverage than worrying about who they told first. Sometimes you can almost read their desperation between the lines.

What some journalists have figured out is that we almost always post something on the Yahoo! Search blog when we launch a new Search related service. When do we post? Usually at the same time the embargos on traditional journalists are lifted. If there’s a press release, it usually hits the wire the next morning. None of this s secret–it’s a pattern that we’ve followed many times.

What I’m hoping for is the day that we can be bit less uptight about who knows when, who gets the early call, pre-briefings, and all that stuff. Sure, for a really big launch we should do that. But I think for the incremental enhancements, launches, and so on it’s overkill. We should just publish something when the feature or service is live, and let the world figure it out. They will.

But I suspect it’ll take quite a while for that to happen, and it’ll piss off a lot of PR folks and journalists along the way.

Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.

Tech Journalists Getting Fed Up With NDAs and Embargos
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