Cycling Journalists from around the globe debate embargo etiquette and effectiveness

A thread within which cycling journalists from around the globe have held a long debate on the subject of embargoes has raised numerous points for cycling labels around the globe to consider.

Coming on the back of more than one instance of an embargo breach this week the thread begins with Singletrack editor Chipps Chippendale writing “Let’s talk about embargoes…”

Journalists and photographers from all corners of the globe have subsequently chipped in with authors from CyclingTips, BikeRumor, Singletrack and, among others all putting forward both frustrations, experiences and views on how to improve the situation.

Very few on the thread are chucking stones, many even admitting to accidentally having fallen foul of an embargo for one reason or another.

“The embargo (should be) in both the subject line and at the TOP of the email. We’ve received some press releases and started scrambling to produce a story, only to get to the very bottom of the info and find an embargo there, in small print. That information should be big, bold, front and center,” outlined BikeRumor publisher Tyler Benedict on how journalists can get caught out.

But many are willfully flouting rules and therein lies a bigger problem, outlines Chippendale in the original post.

“For those of us who earn our living from online advertising, having a competitor break an embargo means that we lose out on the SEO rankings for that topic when we go live (with everyone else) at the correct time. Jimbob’s Bike News Website that broke the story early will get its hallowed Google No.1 and we’ll be somewhere down the third page. This has genuine affect on our earning power, regardless of the considerable size of our audience,” wrote the Singletrack editor.

More painful still to publishers is the perceived lack of backbone from brands to curb and punish those journalists going a day, or even an hour in advance of the permitted slot. This issue, it is repeatedly said, is occasionally muddied by time zones not being clearly stated on releases set globally.

“I’ve come to accept that most companies only care about what serves them best. If someone breaks the embargo, but it doesn’t adversely affect the company’s marketing plan, does the company ultimately really care? Unfortunately, probably not,” wrote James Huang of CyclingTips.

“I couldn’t even get companies to grow even the slightest hint of a backbone when a competing publication was caught repeatedly (and unrepentantly) stealing content, not just from us, but from seemingly everyone.”

Further suggestions from journalists include advanced notice of embargoes on press trips, not lifting the embargo while journalists are travelling back from the event and, if product is shown in groups, not to lift the embargo as soon as the final group is finished as this puts those journalists at a disadvantage.

Another theme running throughout relates to the required timescales to generate quality content above and beyond information issued by the manufacturer.

“Give us an opportunity (AKA time) to shoot our own photos and/or video. Yes, your exquisite studio photos are great, and we might use some them, but shooting our own photos is an important way to differentiate our coverage,” suggests Bicycling’s Matt Phillips, echoing a number of journalists burned by embargo breaker(s) earlier this week.

Brand managers past and present have chipped in too, with Michael Bonney suggesting that brands could be braver in blacklisting journalists who fall foul of the rules.

He said: “First you need to establish who broke the embargo, publisher/editor or journalist, then look to blacklist the publication or person. An industry wide black list would be the ultimate goal, but there is no vehicle to publish it or check validity and not enough unity in the industry to achieve it. Ultimately it comes down to trust and brands need to look at who they trust.”

Jason Rico of the Rico Sports Group suggests brands introduced a tier-based system based on earned trust in a bid to get the situation under control.

“Because press coverage is important to all brands launching a product, I’d put these offenders on a ‘B list’ and send them the product information AFTER the media that honours the embargo have already published.”

Retailers too chimed into the thread, outlining that very often they will hear about product from their customers first, rather than from their brand partners. Furthermore, retailers are said to be adversely affected by broken embargoes as current stock can seem dated to potential customers when news breaks ahead of time.

Have an opinion on how to curb poor etiquette, or perhaps you represent a brand that has moved to improve the situation? Let us know in the comments below.