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Has the NDA itch got you down? Why not avoid the problem altogether?

As many people know, I'm a pretty strong opponent of news embargos.  When I was at AnandTech, I can't tell you the number of times I had a CPU or GPU in my hands before an embargo was agreed upon, only to have another editor sign away the AnandTech rights to an exclusive shortly after. A refusal to agree to embargoes was one of the cornerstones on which DailyTech is built.

Over the last nineteen months since I founded DailyTech, I've been accused of stealing information, stealing sources, hacking servers, corrupting the journalistic process and copyright violation.  None of these are true, of course, but when you publish data points months before their planned public release tensions run high.

Over the last few months, I've seen op-ed after op-ed on other publications "denouncing the embargo leakers" and other rhetoric.  Wilson Rothman at Gizmodo ran an editorial today, for example:
The point of an NDA is to keep competitors, retailers and consumers from knowing what's next, for reasons of competitve advantage or product sell-through. But when you can't keep the secret, why should the news suffer?
This is purely naive. The point of an embargo is to maximize media exposure and keep all the journalists happy with each other.  To think Samsung doesn't know what products Nokia plans to announce tomorrow is pure folly.  Embargoes on pricing information generally are put in place to offset sales cannibalization, but let's face it -- that's not the type of information Gizmodo and other publications are annoyed with.

Here's an excerpt from the 2007 DailyTech Handbook:
The DailyTech philosophy regarding embargoes is as follows: almost certainly DailyTech will publish details of a lead on the date of an announcement, even if those details are accumulated from publications that did sign NDAs. At best, an embargo can provide these details and allow the writer to prepare the news announcement just a few hours before this public release date. However, at worst, an embargo could delay the publication of crucial details acquired from different sources by days or weeks. In some cases, carefully crafted embargoes can actually discourage the publication of some details.
Rothman closes:
But I strongly encourage you to recognize that when the cat gets out of the bag, you [companies] should release us from our embargoes. Otherwise, all you'll keep getting from us are secondhand-sourced stories that only tell half of the news, with a tiny follow-up when the product is officially acknowledged.
Aside from the fact that this is pretty much the modus operandi for Gizmodo (and most other news publications) let's step back and think about the silliness thats occuring here.  Publication A cannot talk about Product B because Publication A agreed to it. 

Why would a publication put itself in that position?  The only thing you assure with an embargo is that your news will be swept away into the sea of 10,000 other publications adhering to the same embargo at launch date.  Yes, you'll miss some details at launch -- and, yes, you'll need to stay up until 4 a.m. the night before crunching the facts. And yes, you'll probably get fewer free samples weeks in advance. 

But then again, who ever wanted to read stale spoon-fed press releases anyway?




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