DS SolidWorks this month has been inviting bloggers and editors to its headquarters to preview SolidWorks 2010. (We editors are puzzled why we are being flown in one at a time, rather than all at once in a group -- but that's another story.)
I was looking forward to my trip next week, but then I read Roopinder Tara's travelogue at CAD Insider, Bound and Gagged, in which he reported that an unnamed software company [wink, wink] placed him under embargo and so he cannot report on the product's new features until 1 September.
I had planned to live-blog my SolidWorks visit, just as I did with the visit to Autodesk's Inventor offices earlier this year. So when Mr Tara used the E-word, I reread the email of invitation from Beaupre (SolidWorks' pr firm), but found no mention of an embargo or an NDA [non-disclosure agreement]. Last night, I asked Beaupre to confirm/repudiate the rumor. (Update: Beupre confirms that the embargo is being sprung on arriving guests: "We have asked reporters to honor a 9/1 embargo on the SW 2010 release.")
To a busy editor, the formula looks like this:
Two days of travel + Non-exclusivity of the news = What's in it for me?As Mr Tara noted, embargoes made sense in the old days when it took 2-3 months for articles to appear in print. But these are no longer the old days; today, we editors even deal in pre-news -- announcing news before it occurs.
The Vendors' Point of View
Deelip Menezes* reminded me that Scott Sheppard of Autodesk explained the corporate defense for embargoes www.deelip.com/?p=410&cpage=1#comment-1123>:
Embargos are a long-standing part of the information sharing process. It allows the information to be widely disseminated over a period of time but have that information become public at the same time. In this way, one blogger does not "scoop" another. All bloggers can start posting at the same time.
For vendors, this position makes perfect sense, especially from public corporations who need to protect against insider training of shares. (Autodesk, however, has twice allowed selected bloggers to spill the beans on new AutoCAD releases before all others.)
The Editors' Point of View
For editors like me, however, the phrase "at same time" is the crux of the problem. What benefit do my publications gain from posting the same news as everyone else and at the same time? This is why I never wrote a review the new 3D mouse from 3dconnexion, for example.
In an earlier posting, I noted that I like the Wall Street Journal's new policy: they accept embargoes only if they get exclusivity (which I would define as a 24-hour lead on everyone else).
Corporations love parrots. My guiding principle is instead something Yoav Etiel told me in the early days of upFront.eZine:
"Tell me what I don't know."Otherwise, there is no point to reading upFront.eZine and WorldCAD Access.
As to why my publications should deserve to get exclusives from any vendor, they don't need to. Several CAD vendors ignore me, such as Bentley Systems and Dassault Systemes. Others see a benefit to working exclusively with upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.
*) Deelip Menezes has since posted his commentary on the SolidWorks embargo under "Bound, Gagged and P***ed".
So there is an embargo on the information, but not on the fact that there is an embargo. Or the fact that different dates have been handed out. The SW bloggers were given the Aug 24 date, while it seems Mr. Tara was given Sept 1.
"Corporations love parrots." HA! Love it.
"What benefit do my publications gain from posting the same news as everyone else and at the same time? This is why I never wrote a review the new 3D mouse from 3dconnexion" Exactly.
"Tell me what I don't know." Beautiful.
Why don't they program some bots to post stuff to a corporate blog, and assign a fictitious name and a fake picture. They get the same result as parrots posting what they're told when they're told, plus you don't have to fly the bot to Concord and give it a free ball cap.
Posted by: Matt | Aug 20, 2009 at 11:50 AM
"For editors like me, however, the phrase 'at same time' is the crux of the problem. What benefit do my publications gain from posting the same news as everyone else and at the same time?"
You are correct. The information alone is not sufficient. Your readers benefit from your personalized commentary that accompanies your sharing of the information.
Posted by: Scott Sheppard | Aug 20, 2009 at 12:22 PM
Sigh, so any blogger invited to SW HQ is a corporate parrot? Your statements might seem a bit premature and a tat under-researched, especially for an "editor". They just come off sounding like sour grapes. Seriously, have you even read the material of the people you are off-handedly devaluing in your complaint about SW?
Posted by: fcsuper | Aug 20, 2009 at 11:04 PM
I believe Ralph is well acquainted with SW bloggers, at least a couple of us. I don't think sour grapes has anything to do with it. He said he has his invitation. To people who have been there several times, the travel is lost time and more a pain in the neck than an honor. If you haven't been there before, its easy to see why you might be impressed by the invitation. Frankly, it's a long way to go to see stuff that you mostly know already because beta is available to every user on subscription. And its a very long way to go to see stuff that you can't talk about anyway.
Posted by: Matt | Aug 21, 2009 at 10:43 AM
Using your good connections and importance to gain exclusivity means making actuality all the harder for the rest of the press. Sounds like you easily accept being part of the very mafia you otherwise denounce.
Posted by: Wind Reaper | Aug 22, 2009 at 06:15 AM
Maybe you should think about what blogs like Tech Crunch have done = they only will agree to embargoes if its an exclusive.
Posted by: Chris | Aug 24, 2009 at 06:42 AM
I'll just say I'm with ya, don't see the reason for different nda dates.
Reagardless of when something is published or where, it the unique content and opinion that matter. "Tell me what I don't know."
Even if nda's where lifted at the same time though, print would typically come out a little later than an online article.
Posted by: Josh | Aug 27, 2009 at 09:10 PM
The only reason I can see for you agreeing to an embargo is to have early access to the data, and have time to analyze it, forming an opinion and publishing. I agree that simply publishing their press release is of little value. I am not sure that you realize that the reason we like your writing is to get _your_ opinion. You've been pretty insightful over the years and your audience has an understanding of your point of view. We like to see what Ralph thinks, as it gives us another data point.
Posted by: Ken Elliott | Sep 16, 2009 at 07:03 AM
Ball cap? What ball cap? I didn't get a ball cap...
Posted by: Bill Fane | Sep 18, 2009 at 09:08 AM