Danny Rogers: Embargo-busting media a challenge for PR

The strong rumour that The Wall Street Journal is now actively breaking embargoes on stories highlights the growing tension between journalism and PR, the result of the ongoing media revolution.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Pioneering tech blog TechCrunch openly instigated the same policy last December, expressing its growing frustration with aggressive and controlling PR practices from technology brands.

But while such a policy is characteristic of TechCrunch's maverick blogger style, its adoption by the mainstream WSJ is a more fundamental development.

The wider context is that journalists on The Wall Street Journal are under growing pressure to break stories more quickly, and more exclusively. Why? Because new owner (since 2007) Rupert Murdoch realises this is the only way he can persuade readers to pay for his content. This, in turn, has become more critical as his other revenues - advertising and print sales - are in sharp decline.

And The Wall Street Journal will not be the last media title to take this view. Although some observers describe news as a 'commodity', valuable, up-to-date - sometimes business critical - information is at the heart of what all good media provide. As such they must find a way to charge for news, and if this is to be a success they must get better and better at it.

What does this mean for PR professionals? Well, at first sight it looks like a threat. Embargoes are a tried and tested way of carefully releasing information to various media outlets. And if journalists are simply going to snub this process, surely there will be a breakdown in the crucial trust relationship between the two parties?

I would disagree. Embargoes are often a lazy means of dealing with the media. If you give journalists information - and we hacks are hungry for information - it is unrealistic to expect them to sit on it for days before writing the story, particularly when they are under ever-increasing pressure.

It actually means PR professionals must raise their game accordingly. Information must be turned around faster and with the needs of individual media outlets in sharper focus.


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