So maybe the "exclusive" pictures of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt in People weren't so exclusive when all was said and done.
After all, the pictures appeared on Web sites like Gawker.com and PerezHilton.com days before the blessed issue - and even People's planned leaks to the New York Post and New York Daily News - hit the newsstands.
Indeed, as many media outlets have speculated since the Jolie-Pitt picture fiasco, the magazine exclusive just isn't what it used to be. With bloggers and online journalists clamoring to break stories, there is little respect left for a print magazine's stake on timely news. But in the end, does it really matter? Years from now, in the history books of major celebrity magazine "gets," People will still go down as the pub that got the goods on Baby Jolie-Pitt, even if it was for a pretty hefty price.
While technology and a beyond 24/7 hunger for news has compromised the true exclusivity of the exclusive, it can still prove valuable. For media outlets that have won the big get, the story itself is sometimes not as big as the fact that the outlet in question got the story. When NBC's Ann Curry won an "exclusive" interview with Angelina Jolie in Namibia a few months before she gave birth, other outlets reported all of the pertinent parts of the interview before it officially aired. But again, that didn't matter; NBC was still able to tout that it had the exclusive interview, and every other outlet that reported on the interview's contents had to give credit to NBC. And when People won the bidding rights to the Brangelina baby, it no doubt set the magazine's PR department into overdrive, spreading the word in record time.
In the world of celebrity journalism especially, the value of the exclusive is perhaps the greatest for the media outlet because it provides leverage to get the next big story. Over the years, People in particular has been especially good at getting the most coveted celebrity news, whether by paying for it or by forging good old journalistic relationships.
It's probably no coincidence that People, the magazine that had an exclusive statement from Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt about their separation on its Web site last January, is the same outlet that ultimately reported news of Jolie and Pitt expecting and won the rights to pictures of the highly anticipated offspring.
"Competing with so many similar outlets, they need to stand out," says David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision. "They need to be the magazine that is seen as one with all the inside celebrity scoops. It also helps them broker deals, not only with celebrities, but also with the buying public."
For the PR practitioner faced with the decision of which outlet to give the exclusive to, it still comes down to serving the client's core audience, no matter what industry that client is in. Johnson notes that he recently gave an exclusive to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a weekly, over the daily Atlanta Journal-Constitution because the Chronicle reached its target audience.
Similarly, Samantha Slaven, a Los Angeles-based publicist, recently granted an exclusive to US Weekly to confirm a rumored relationship between two contestants on The Apprentice, one of whom was her client. "[US Weekly] creates more buzz and is more gossipy and is better read by the demographic that I wanted to target with this story," she says. "It's very important to do an exclusive because otherwise the media won't run it. If you give it to more than one competitive media outlet, no one would run it."
Because when a media outlet loses an exclusive, it loses all the bragging rights and PR residuals that go with it.