Wired editor hits back against PR spammers

March 7, 2008

Sorry PR people: you’re blocked – writes Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine

Fed up with receiving vast quantities of inappropriate or badly written press releases, editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, Chris Anderson, decided to hit back with some spamming of his own. By publishing the email addresses of the guilty senders, Chris hopes their email addresses will be picked up by spambots, resulting in them being similarly deluged by mass-mailed junk.

 I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it’s PR people. Lazy flacks (American PR agents -Ed.) send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching. Fact: I am an actual person, not a team assigned to read press releases and distribute them to the right editors and writers (that’s editor@wired.com).

So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that’s why my email address is public).

Everything else gets banned on first abuse. The following is just the last month’s list of people and companies who have been added to my Outlook blocked list. All of them have sent me something inappropriate at some point in the past 30 days. Many of them sent press releases; others just added me to a distribution list without asking. If their address gets harvested by spammers by being published here, so be it–turnabout is fair play.

From my perspective, this is an interesting  – though fully understandable – escalation of hostilities in the sometimes uneasy relationship between PR and editor. Understandable, because nobody likes to be spammed: Off-the-shelf “media databases” and “journalist lists” combined with inexperienced or over-zealous PRs naturally exposes editors to torrents of unsolicited email. Inevitably, a high percentage of this will be rejected as “junk”. On the one hand, I can really sympathise with the editor on the receiving end of a seemingly endless stream of dull, irrelevant or badly written press releases. But on the other, I think there has to be a little understanding that effective PR does sometimes require us to “chance our arm” a little. Being banished from the land of credibility on your first offence does seem a bit harsh. However, it does also underline the need for PR companies to build and maintain their own databases of contacts rather than rely on bought-in third party products. Journalists are taught to “Do You Own Research”. I don’t think it is unreasonable for journalists to expect the same courtesy from PR companies.