TechCrunch today has declared an end to embargoes, other than for exclusives and trusted companies. The underlying reason is that the embargo system is so often abused or ignored as to be pointless. Thus, TC says it’s time for a new site policy:
We’ve never broken an embargo at TechCrunch. Not once. Today that ends. From now our new policy is to break every embargo. We’ll happily agree to whatever you ask of us, and then we’ll just do whatever we feel like right after that. We may break an embargo by one minute or three days. We’ll choose at random.
Naturally, Mike Arrington and his staff have the right to take their site in whatever direction they want. And, as he elaborates in his post, because most PR firms issuing embargoed releases seldom take action against embargo breakers, there will probably be few if any consequences of their new policy.
However, while I definitely think the practice of sending a full release with the headline “embargoed until such-and-such EST on such-and-such” is taking your life in your hands, I also believe that agreeing to an embargo (before receiving the news) and then willfully going back on your word is a business and ethical decision that is not without repercussions.
It’s disturbing that so many people can find it not only acceptable but commendable to give their word and agree to honor an embargo and then “do whatever feels right”—that breaking their word can and will be “whatever feels right.”
Yes, sometimes—frequently, even—bloggers and other publishers go live with embargoed news early, willfully breaking their word. And yes, it’s disappointing and disheartening to be scooped on a story or not be featured as prominently in third party coverage of stories because someone else broke their word—but neither that nor a general forewarning or policy is going to make it okay to say one thing and do another.
Our stance? We will continue to honor any agreed embargo–standing by our track record of not once “going early” on embargoed news.