Exclusives and Embargoes and Onlines - Oh My!
Exclusives are simply "a euphemism for a story I don't want to write….Don't try to dress up a piece of non-news as an exclusive," advised Paul Roberts, an IDG News Service correspondent, when asked recently for his perspective on this common tactic.
Paul Gillin, editor in chief for TechTarget, was a tad more direct: "In general, I advise you never to do exclusives in print or online. You give CNET an exclusive, and 10 minutes later everyone has picked up on it and you've got dozens of reporters pissed off at you, for a jump of 15 minutes that no reader notices."
This spicy exchange ensued at a panel organized by Business Wire earlier this Fall. The session, entitled "Targeting Online Media," featured Gillin and Roberts, as well as Melanie Nayer, Business Section Content Producer for Boston.com. The primary focus of the discussion was on how online media differs from other news formats. Biz Wire's Sanford Paek, who moderated, kicked off with a stat from the Pew Internet and American Life Project report: 128 million adults in America are online, and 63% of them get their news online.
Beyond exclusives, the group chatted about differences between online and print. The ever-articulate Gillin noted that onlines can "target their audience by addressing people at a very fine level of need." (When a guy has helped raise $70 million for a publishing enterprise in this economic environment, I listen pretty closely to what he has to say.) Gillin noted that NetworkWorld has more than 30 email newsletters, illustrating the point that you can be very segmented with this medium. "We're moving towards 1 to 1 marketing because onlines give you the economics to do so," said Gillin.
Roberts gave some good advice on embargoes: "At IDG, if you give us a story under embargo, we can talk with customers and analysts to do a fully developed story." He strongly suggested getting live agreement on the embargo by phone, rather than leaving this often complex process of give-and-take to a protracted email exchange. He advised calling about 5 days in advance. "But be smart about it. If my competitor gets wind of the story and runs with it, I will too. If I'm dealing with Microsoft, who can punish me until the day I retire, I might think twice, but otherwise, I'm gonna run it."