Embargoes, in the age of instant journalism, are the silliest of PR conventions. In fact, they're counterproductive — especially for publicity-seeking startup conferences like this week's TechCrunch40 and next week's Demo, organized by Chris Shipley (left). And yet not everyone gets this. Blogger Paul Boutin sent TechCrunch40 organizer Jason Calacanis into a rage by committing an act of journalism: Going to the open site of the startup conference last Sunday and copying down, by hand, the names of the 40 startups due to present. What prompted Boutin to do this? Why, the organizers' ham-handed, ridiculous embargo demands.
The most ludicrous, self-defeating requirement — the one that prompted Boutin to detach himself from his keyboard and head downtown — was that journalists not publish the list until 9 a.m. Monday morning — a full two hours after TechCrunch itself said it would publish the list. Boutin, of course, did Calacanis a huge favor by doing so.
In reporting the publicly available list before TechCrunch40's unilaterally imposed embargo — an embargo, one should note, that Boutin never agreed to observe — Boutin actually gave TechCrunch40 a shot at gathering attention. Instead of being buried in the noontime news mix, the TechCrunch40 list hit the top of Techmeme first thing Monday morning.
So Boutin has inspired me. Shipley deserves the same kind of buzzmaking attention for her upcoming startup showcase. I know that the Demo lineup has been circulating. Why? Robert Scoble, for one, has been filming videoblog episodes with Demo participants all this week.