For those outside of the PR/media business embargoes are usually employed when a company has big news to break, often publications are pre-briefed and asked not to publish until a pre-determined time. This enables the journalist/blogger to have more time to do more research and break the story ahead of the most of the rest of the pack. Usually a company would pick a handful of key targets to brief under embargo and then issue the announcement via a press release to a wider list at the embargo time. Occasionally if the announcement is linked to a physical event that a key contacts can’t make, a pre-briefing might happen under embargo to ensure that coverage still appears in the key title.
The problem is that embargoes get broken, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose to get a scoop. This isn’t why Arrington is fed up though and has decided to no longer honour any embargoes. Rather he is fed up with PR firms issuing news under embargoes willy-nilly in order to make news seem more important than it is. Which is fair enough, although a poor story is a poor story and should be rejected out-of-hand even if does have an enticing offer that you may get the news first stamped on it.
Obviously not foolish enough to completely cut his nose off to spite his face, Arrington added that TechCrunch will honour some embargoes, but only if they are from “trusted companies and PR firms who give us the news exclusively, so we know there won’t be any mistakes. There are also a handful – maybe three – people who we trust enough to continue to work with them on general embargoes”. So potentially this is a move designed to cut down some of the PR spam they have been receiving.
Now to the helping PRs part. TechCrunch will now publish a blacklist of companies who have broken embargoes, obviously listing themselves at the top of the list. I assume this is how they will be spending the time freed up by not going through emails with spurious embargos.
To be honest I’m not actually sure how this will help TechCrunch. Savvy PRs, ie those who read TechCrunch, will stop sending them news in advance, the non-savvy ones will keep sending it and everyone will get a handy list of which outlets can’t tell the time in return.