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December 10, 2007

Filed under: journalism»ethics»online


Ever since I wrote those first couple of articles for Ars about UX Week, and especially after I covered the Future of Music Conference sessions, I've been getting e-mails from PR reps about music, UI, and tech news. I try to turn them down politely, since I don't have any intention about writing about a press release. It seems lazy to me, and I've done my time writing for the Man.

What is interesting is seeing who picks it up out in the more mainstream publications--they're clearly spamming these letters out to everyone who's ever written about a similar topic online. Someone at Wired can usually be expected to pick them up, for example. Ever wonder why Gizmodo and Engadget seem to share 90% of the same items, even if they're in competition? This is why. I don't really know how I feel about that. On the one hand, what's the harm? It's not like these are (usually) topics that lend themselves to investigative reporting ("My god! Deep Throat has led us to... A NEW CHEAP HD-DVD PLAYER!"). But on the other hand, I don't look at these sites quite the same way again.

The Long Tail author Chris Anderson had enough with PR spam one day, and published the 100 addresses he was adding to his block list. He noted in a followup post that a lot of this kind of thing is done automatically, via huge marketing databases available for hire. The PR reps that take the time to get to know people, or build their own lists, were much less likely to get indignant responses. But do they have as much success? Or, as in regular spam, do the hits outnumber the outrage by sufficient amounts to make the enterprise profitable?

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