I started this as a comment to Ben’s post, than it grew post-sized. I have somewhat ambivalent feeling about embargoes, so here it goes:
We do respect embargoes which we agree to, which is typically how you get pre-release information.
I don’t like implied embargoes we never had the chance to agree to. You see, this should be a two step-dance: first the PR firm (or the company themselves) asks if you agree to the embargo, then you get the actual information. But sometimes you get all the stuff dumped on your Inbox, typically with a PR firm you had never worked with, with an embargo they assume you will accept. Well, don’t assume anything: these are often the releases already leaked here and there, in fact you may have heard it from other sources, why would your hands be tied now that you found an email in your inbox?
Agreeing to an embargo and playing fair can indeed be very frustrating when you see others break it. I understand why Mike over @ TechCrunch is fed up with it, andI almost understand his new policy of not keeping embargoes. Almost, because he goes a step too far:
From this point on we will break every embargo we agree to.
It’s a strong statement, but it’s three words too long. Just make it “From this point on we will break every embargo” and you’re OK. Declare you disagree, and it’s fine, but don’t break what you agree to.
For us @ CloudAve this is more of an academic discussion, we don’t strive to break the news first. We value thoughtful analysis a lot more, and it often helps to sit back, evaluate, then write later.
Last, I wonder just how valuable these embargoes are for the companies issuing them? Yes, the idea is to generate a coordinated “big bang”, which may have worked when all you had was traditional media. With blogs taking over, your Big Bang may bring dozens of articles – very few original posts, most parroting the text of the Press Release. It’s nice to see a big cloud on TechMeme (like on this very subject now), but frankly, how many of these you think people actually read? Wouldn’t you be better off with a continuous stream of articles, blog posts, where the writers would actually have to think up something new on their own? This is especially true for software releases, which are typically soft-announced anyway, with private beta then beta testers having access to it, or as is the case with Google, discovering it before the announcement.
Now, when Steve Jobs gets on stage to announce the next super-secret Apple device (the Startrek Communicator with the built-in beam-me-up-Scotty function) then I understand the role of the embargo. But as we know, he won’t be doing it anymore.
Finally, on the light side: did you think the Hell sign TechCrunch used to make their point was a fake? If you do, you can go to Hell yourself – as in Hell, Michigan. Population 266