No scoops, no NDAs, no exclusives — no walls

Ed Bott of ZDNet has a great column that outlines some of issues that media (both old and new), companies and PR agencies are wrestling with in the Web 2.0 world – using Microsoft and its somewhat elaborate and convoluted structure of EULAs, NDAs and various other restrictions on the Office 12 Beta as an example. Some journalists can write about it, and so can some bloggers – but other media can’t, and some bloggers can’t. Even The Scobleizer couldn’t figure it out immediately: at first he said Ed could blog some of the features, then after some checking he said he probably couldn’t.

Without giving a lot of details from the Microsoft side, Scoble gets into the implications of this new world in his own post, in which he describes how PR types are struggling with questions like “Are bloggers journalists?”

“Now every single one of us has the power to have “the exclusive.” It really is messing with PR team’s heads as they try to deal with this new world of 20,000,000 people who can make or break your PR plans. It was so much easier back when you only needed to deal with a few hundred or less.”

James Robertson has some thoughts along those lines too, in which he says that this is a sign of the evolution that’s going on in the world of PR, as it tries to come to grips with Media 2.o:

What we’re seeing is the old PR staff doing business as usual, and getting snared by the ground as it’s shifting underneath them. I’m not sure where this is going to end up… A new model is trying to be born, and I don’t think anyone knows what it’s going to look like yet.

James has hit the nail on the head. It’s not just that blogs are a massive maelstrom of commentary that is difficult to wrap your head or arms around as a journalist, PR person or company – the incredible power even a single blog can have to alter the way your company or product is perceived is also difficult to come to grips with. Some companies are trying to hire people to pretend to be satisfied customers, as Nvidia has been accused of doing; some are trying to hire bloggers outright; some are counting on relationships and “customer evangelists” like The Scobleizer himself – or reaching out to people like Thomas Hawk.

One thing is obvious: whether it’s scoops or “exclusives” or EULAs or NDAs or private get-togethers with the CEO over drinks at the club (off the record of course), the old ways are rapidly becoming irrelevant. What will replace them remains to be seen (Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research says scoops will continue, but who gets them will change, and Steve Rubel seems to agree). I just gave a presentation today to a group of PR staff here in Toronto about blogs, and there was a tremendous amount of interest – but also a lot of questions. And the most interesting part is that no one really has the answers.

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