How not to influence the press -- a bizarre tale

SNEWS has seen many bizarre things over the years of covering the outdoor and fitness industries. But, frankly, nothing so bizarre as what transpired recently between the SNEWS editors and a U.S.-based European marketing director of a European company.
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SNEWS has seen many bizarre things over the years of covering the outdoor and fitness industries. But, frankly, nothing so bizarre as what transpired recently between the SNEWS editors and a U.S.-based European marketing director of a European company.

We cover the outdoor and fitness markets so, naturally, we write about, well, outdoor and fitness. That means covering companies and their products, as well as market trends, trade shows and more. In the course of doing our job, we asked for and received a press release from this company and followed up with questions via email, which were answered and, as a result, a story was written. Seemed like a good company. Figured they would appreciate the coverage.

Being a subscription-only newsletter, we wanted to let the company know that the story had run so we emailed the headline and story slug. Since the company does not subscribe, they couldn't read the news about them … and off we went to the races:

Response No. 1 (We have deleted company and product references to protect the unnamed company, but have left all emails as we received them, errors and all, in the following short excerpts):

"THIS IS RIDICULOUS.
You should get your revenues from the operators, not from the manufacturers, for the simple reason that the first are the ones who 'benefit' from the news you publish and the second are the sources of the news. Instead, here you are presenting us with this paradox: we provide you with the news and you ask us for money to read the news.
You understand I'm busy and I do not want to invest any more time on this issue, so, please replay to this email only in one of the following two ways:

1) Provide us with free access to your site so we can at least check if the communication is appropriate

or

2) Confirm you do not have any info on Company X or Company X's related products on your site, since you are not authorized by the manufacturer to publish this kind of sensitive info depriving the very same source of any kind of control."

Somewhat stunned, we emailed back explaining that we were subscription-only and that our model of having subscribers actually pay to read the news -- since we don't take advertising -- was not that unusual and was working quite well, thank you. (Last time we checked, even small lesser-known publications, like, say, the Wall Street Journal, actually had the audacity to require people to pay for their subscription before reading the news.) Naturally, we also informed the gentleman that his company did not need to subscribe for us to write about them.

We also gently informed this clueless wonder that no media outlet needed authorization from a manufacturer or company before publishing news and information about that manufacturer, especially when said news is already in the public domain of trade shows, websites and press releases.

In short order, we received Response No. 2, another email gem:

"I insist: You must put me in a position to see what you have published (pictures and images) about Company X's products without having Company X paying for that. If I do not hear anything from you by this coming Friday, you'll receive a phone call from our corporate lawyer next Monday."

Apparently, threatening the media with legal action to have access to what is, quite clearly, a subscription-only site, is considered good PR where this gentleman received his marketing degree.

We emailed back that we were sorry he felt that way, and then of course, encouraged him to have his company lawyer contact us -- more curious than anything.

We'll give him this much, he's persistent -- Within a couple of hours, we received yet another email (from the man who was so busy), raising the level of hyperbole and even adding threats. This surely is the example other companies and marketing directors will wish to emulate to earn lots of love from the media trying to actually cover industry product and news.

Response No. 3:

"Bottom line is:
1) following your request, we have provided you with info on our company and new products
2) you have elaborated those info, created an article and posted that piece on your membership-based web side
3) you are asking us money to access those very same info on our products

I'll give you until tomorrow at noon (Pacific time) to change your mind and give us the access to the article/s about X that you have written and posted on your web site.

Then, not only I'll have our corporate lawyer to call you on Monday, but I will forward this very email to (name removed to protect the innocent), to the major manufacturers both European and North American and to the main magazines covering our industry and I guarantee you that your business model will make for a very nice case study for what not to do if you want to be successful in the publishing industry."

SNEWS View: We love his logic. Apparently, he wants retailers and other businesses that actually buy his gear -- he hopes -- to be the only ones who have to pay for and support a subscription-only news source. By the same logic, he apparently somehow believes that without him, the media would have no news, so he should be offered free access as a sort of thank you. By that same logic, we're thinking of now asking him to provide us with the company's full line of equipment, for free. After all, why should we have to pay for it when the "operators" are getting information about his product from us? Sounds like a good business model to us -- make the "operators" pay for everything, and while we're at it, let's have the "operators" pay for all trade show space too, since apparently without this gentleman, there would be no exhibitors.

We're also not sure who taught him that he, or any manufacturer, could demand to have complete control over the media. Perhaps in a Marxist regime, but certainly not here, or any country where freedom of the press is a revered right and protected by law. And, being a free society, no one has ever been forced to subscribe to SNEWS to be written about. We cover the industries, subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

We'll keep you posted if this story manages to develop further … stranger things have happened.

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