Wired editor bans PR flacks

For the past week or so, I've been blacklisting PR flacks from my email inbox. Anytime I get a press release that doesn't interest me, I add the domain name of the PR agency to my killfile list.

I just found out that Chris Anderson, Wired's editor-in-chief, has been doing the same thing.

He's also published his long, long list of banned flacks. Good for him.

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 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.

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.

There is no getting off this list. If you're on it and have something appropriate to say to me, use a different email address.

Link (Thanks, Barry!)


  1. Seems like you’re asking for denial-of-service attacks. Anyone else read this and immediately think, “I can put Mark and Chris on each other’s kill files!”?

  2. “There is no getting off this list. If you’re on it and have something appropriate to say to me, use a different email address.”

    I believe we have found a flaw…

  3. There’s more than a bit of arrogance in this pronouncement. Anderson assumes he’s sufficiently prescient to define the universe prior to it’s arrival. Sorry bub. Your job, or your-own-personal-flack’s job, is to read offerings of information from out here, outside your crib.

  4. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such an extreme example of swelled-head-ism even among politicians. I’m really impressed (though not favorably).

  5. I feel his pain. At least three or four times a day I have to unsubscribe from some list or newsletter someone else decided I need to add to my reading list.

    As far as “information” goes, I have never seen anything of remote value in a press release. Theyu are not information, they’re glorified spam.

  6. .

    yes, it’s simple, Flying Squid, but it’s also the only clip of this kind on YouTube

    however, I hope to have an Hollywood-level budget and Spielberg as director to make a better movie with the REAL moon as location… :)


  7. I don’t have sympathy for their being ignored, but I do have sympathy for his pasting up all their e-mails to attract other spammers.

  8. I don’t “promote” the clip since I’ve nothing to sell… it’s only a curious thing (like dozens other on boingboing) and I’ve posted it here since I’ve not found any “on-topic” post… :)

  9. Color me cynical, but I think that some of the PR people who are complaining about their addresses being posted are less concerned with getting spammed as they are with being outed as incompetents[*] who alienate the very people they’re supposed to be reaching.

    Chris’s post is now the #1 Google hit for most of these addresses, and I bet they aren’t very pleased with that.

    [*] Yes, they do seem incompetent. As far as I can tell from googling around, some of these addresses have absolutely no tech-related press releases at all on google. Thus, they are either so bad at PR that they can’t get a press release on a website listed on Google, or so bad at PR that they’ve been sending press releases with no tech angle to the editor of Wired.

  10. Back in the wretched, creaking, unwired “old days,” when PR flacks used street mail, they sent out useful novelties to get writers’ and editors’ attention. E-mail flackism eded that.

  11. Yes, it would be a shame if people in the media miss an important press release – they might have to do independent research when writing a story, instead of just taking companies at their word.

  12. For immediate release: Cowicide has a great product that’s web 3.0. It’s newsworthy because Cow needs money… like, yesterday. What is it? Well, it’s a big, fricken secret but it IS the very first web 3.0 killa-app in existence and is ready for pre-sales… NOW.

  13. This is an awesome response to a bunch of lazy people.

    There is a big huge sign on the wall in the sales dept. at the tech company I work at that says “TARGET THE CUSTOMER. AVOID ‘SPRAY AND PRAY'”.

    Good advice. Too bad so many PR/pitchfolk out there are obviously not taking it.

  14. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that a media person or journalist would blacklist any email from a PR firm. If you don’t want press releases as a media outlet then open a plumbing business for cryin’ out loud! This speaks more to your credibility(ies) as a media outlet then anything about the “laziness” of PR firms.

    I’ve seen some abuse of authority and vindictiveness on the part of the moderators, but this really puts you and Wired into a new class. WTF?!?

  15. From what I understand, prppl are contacting the wrong person because they aren’t bothering to do a quick and simple investigation of who to properly contact with their PR stuff.

    Why are some posters (PR hacks, cough…) here having a problem with that, I wonder?

    I figure the worst that could happen is that prppl will have to go through proper channels to contact WIRED, etc. instead of mindlessly spamming JAE (Just Any Email).

    I sincerely doubt that will damage the “credibility” of WIRED as a media outlet. Those PR blitzes will surely reach the MSM anyway… I think last I checked seventy some percent and higher of MSM news stories are based on PR copypasta. It’s refreshing to see a media outlet that bucks that trend to some extent maybe.

    But, anyway, remember… like waterspan.com said, there is a web 3.0 app coming around the corner and pre-sales start fricken’ NOW… now… now….

  16. Jeez, read the comments there. “I shouldn’t be on this list, I bought a list with your email address on it”. Uh, yeah. A bought list is a spam list. If HE didn’t ask YOU to email him, but you batch-email him anyways, you’re a spammer just as much as the penis-pill guy. If your email is bulk, and it’s unsolicited, it’s spam. Period.

  17. Before slamming him, remember he’s the Editor IN CHIEF. There’s a whole staff of departmental editors who are the proper targets of PR emails, and if the PR reps want their stuff covered, it’s worth their time to find out who they should talk to. That’s part of THEIR job.

  18. #21 As a freelancer, I get courted by those services all the time. It’s quite tempting till I remember what my inbox is crammed with each morning.
    #22 Exactly. It’s like emailing the President to pass on a message to the Senator whose name you can’t be bothered to look up.

  19. Why is this news or an even remotely interesting anecdote?

    We all (or most of us) spend a part of our day killing crap messages – be they from PR flacks or just someone in Nigeria who’d love to pass on the $$$ I earned for no apparent reason.

    The difference in my case, I block the whole damn domain.

  20. PR people who spam give the rest of the profession a bad name. On the other hand, there’s an oversimplification in these comments (and in the Wired editor’s post that’s the subject of this thread) to the effect of: “just target your releases to the right people and your story will be covered.” Truth be told, all the targeting in the world often will not get you past the hostility you face from journalists when you come cold-calling as a PR person. There’s a one-size-fits-all belief out there among many or most reporters and editors (in NYC at least) that if the information is coming to you from a PR person, it can only be valueless spam. This is pretty discouraging to those of us who (a) are not selling a product (I do PR for a nonprofit) and (b) spend actual time honing small lists of targeted reporters and editors and then craft and tailor targeted pitches that 9 times out of 10 go totally ignored.

    What it basically comes down to, like everything else, is relationships. If you know the right people, your news will be covered extensively. If you don’t, it won’t. Anyone who’s been inside any part of the news cycle understands this intimately. Anyone who hasn’t thinks that the stories that make it to the news (or Web or blogosphere) are the ones with the highest news value, or the ones whose promoters did the best “targeting.”

  21. Abuse? Vindictiveness? Are you guys kidding? It’s Mark’s e-mail account, not a public resource.

    People who are listed as magazine editors get snowed under by press releases. Publicists compile lists of them, which they copy and swap and otherwise propagate. Lazy publicists are like spammers: it doesn’t cost them anything more to send a piece of mail to hundreds of inappropriate addresses. After all, it’s not their time they’re wasting.

  22. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. yes, I’ve had email for 20 years, and yes, it’s always been spammed. Originally it was just secretaries who found it easier to “mail all” than to target their latest urban legends to people who might actually care, now it’s penis pills.

    Hasn’t made any noticeable difference… until I check the logs and see that I turn away more than 6000 messages for every one I actually read.


  23. I have to say reading the comments list in the linked article is fascinating and enlightening. Its easy to judge someone’s actions based on a single action – at first Anderson’s actions seemed heavy-handed to me – but the truth is unless you’ve worked in a similar position you can’t really know what they’re dealing with and thus what an appropriate response IS. Reading through this I’ve come to conclude his actions weren’t overly extreme at all.

    Quite educational.

  24. h, lk t tht; my cmmnt ws dltd fst. Th cnsr s rlly n tp f thngs hr, kpng tht grpthnk n ln.

    Hr’s rpst:

    ws gng t pst ths ndr th ndrw Kn rtcl, bt th cnsr hs DSLLWD CMMNTS N THT NTRY n rdr t prtct th BngBng thrs frm frthr mbrrssmnt.

    Tht’s hw cmmnts wrk hr. Thy nly llw th cmmnts thy lk. (By th cmmntrs wh gr wth thm. srs flw f nln cmmnts, by th wy, whch ws pntd t by ndrw Kn n hs bk.)


    “Y cn’t ps s thghtfl cltrl crtc whn y gt tht mny fcts wrng”

    Wht fcts dd h gt wrng?

    Y clm tht h gt ths fct wrng, bt h ddn’t. Mrks nvr wrkd s prfssnl jrnlst.

    hvn’t sn NY vld crtcsm f ndrw Kn n ths blg. ll s s bnch f fnbys wh gt thr ttts twstd.

    Th Dly Ks s lftwng prpgnd rgn nd nthng mr. Th fct tht t’s s ftn lnkd by thr blgs ds nt gv th blg mrt–t gvs ll blgs blck y. f hd t nm n xmpl f why thnk “nws” blgs r jk, t wld b th dly spmmng f Dly Ks lnks by msgdd pltcl ctvsts.

    *Prprng fr grblztn nd bnnng.*

  25. I am rather curious about the mindset that feels to immidiately repost a post that was just deleted.


    And judging by the temperment of the posts in that particular thread, I’d suggest it was closed to prevent a flame war from erupting, a sensible course of action.

    /just sayin

  26. It might not have been deleted. It’s hard to say around here. The rules aren’t posted anywhere so nobody really knows what’s going on at any given point in time.

  27. Trs Nlsn Hydn/Mdrtr s n srs fckng btch. Dwnrght fckng gnrnt n ll hr psts…nt jst fr ths rtcl bt nmbr f prvs ns n bngbng t.

  28. I imagine they mainly expect people to behave with courtesy, to not flame and not use abusive language.
    Nor go on about moderator conspiracies, etc. :p Stuff that tends to be common sense.. but in the vast anonymous power of teh intarwebs, are easy to forget sometimes. :p

  29. I’d love for my friend David Dyer-Bennet (the “DD-B” of comment #7) to explain exactly how Mark Frauenfelder’s stated policy is “swelled-head-ism,” any more than my own policy of ignoring unsolicited novel pitches sent by email.

    It’s a peculiar sort of “libertarianism” that regards other people as public utilities.

  30. The problem is that you can go online and find or buy lists of “opinion leader”/”contact point” email addresses.

    What many people who use such lists don’t realize is that they really don’t work because lazy spamming to the whole list with PR releases has just made PR releases be considered more spam.

    I wouldn’t be nice to see what crap flows into the mailboxes of the US Governors, Senators, and Congress critters, because their emails are often included in lists of “opinion leaders”.

  31. Those of you who worry about hurting the PR flacks’ feelings, please don’t worry. They do not feel pain like normal humans.

  32. Wow, Moonbat. Spamming off-topic comments. Way to prove you didn’t deserve to be deleted the first time around.

    I sure liked having comments reinstated on BoingBoing. Too bad there’s such a brain damaged minority working so hard to have them eliminated again.

  33. This is the mentality of online geeks. Anyone who complains about groupthink must be a troll. That’s what a troll is: someone who disrupts the groupthink of any given forum. And, since the purpose of online forums is to bask in and promote groupthink, trolls are or of course inherently backwards/stupid/insert-adjective-here. The label has nothing to do with content or competence and everything to do with us/them allegiance.

    Andrew Keen is a troll. Why? Because he hates the Internet, and most people here are Internet fanboys.

  34. Soupy Sales, if you’ll consider explaining what you meant by that, I’ll consider reinstating it.

    Moonbat, “Lots of people agree that what you’re doing is dumb” is not the same thing as groupthink.

  35. Anyone who goes online and buys an email list deserves whatever suffering he or she gets, when it turns out that people on that list never asked to be there and will be really, really pissed when you email them.

    Many people selling email lists are crooks.

  36. Right. Turn “online forums are groupthink” to “this group of three comments is groupthink.” That’s a clever trick. Or are you really incapable of seeing the forest through the trees? (Psychologically studies have proven that you are, at this moment, incapable of seeing the forest through the trees, so that’s a rhetorical question.)

  37. Moonbat- It’s “can’t see the forest for the trees”, not through the trees. Now, continue with whatever it may have been you were complaining about.

  38. Moonbat- It’s “can’t see the forest for the trees”, not through the trees. Now, continue with whatever it may have been you were complaining about.

  39. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take Moonbat to notice that the thread he’s complaining about was only temporarily shut down.

  40. As a side note…

    I’m curious as to BB’s policy regarding free samples from PR companies.

    Do you keep all the gadgets, games and dvd’s that PR people send you?

    Do you hoard them, resell them, or give them as gifts? If so, aren’t you compromising your journalistic integrity, and fostering biases towards certain brands?

    I ask this because you seem so quick to get on the high road when it comes to the subject of PR. I wonder if you apply the same lofty ideals to the handling of free giveaways.

    When you’re in the tech/culture you’re going to get lots of emails and lots of free stuff. That’s the beauty and the pain of the industry.

    If you’re annoyed by PR spam, but keep free gifts, you’re a a hypocrite and lousy journalist.

  41. Chipslug (48): That doesn’t logically follow. You’ve left out the question of whether freebies affect the judgement of the people who receive them.

    Can your head be turned by trinkets? If not, why do you assume others won’t have the same reaction?

  42. Teresa,

    I worked as a tech reporter for several years at a major Canadian newspaper, and we had a very strict policy about not accepting freebies.

    The thinking behind this blanket policy is fairly obvious: when company X gives a gift to a media outlet, that media outlet becomes indebted, and a relationship has been forged. The debt is not necessarily repaid with a glowing review. In fact, a journalist may write a negative review as a kind of subconscious affirmation of their own integrity — a kind of backlash against the seediness of accepting a blatant perk.

    Either way, in accepting a freebie, the journalist can only proceed with clouded judgement, if only in the slightest degree.

    I know of tech reporter who make up 30 per cent of their income through re-selling freebies on ebay. After ten years of receving free gear from companies like Nintendo, Canon, and Panasonic, can we truly believe that he reports on those brands without bias?

    I think BB readers are entitled to know BB’s policy about on PR freebies. This site fights for transparency and full disclosure in other realms, and I’d very much like to see these same principles turned the other way.

    I only make a point of this in light of Mark’s whiny post about PR people. He suggests that publicity annoy him with their spam. How does he feel about them when they send pressies?

    Please employ the lofty principles you preach, and enlighten us as to BB’s policy towards accepting freebies.

    Thank you,

    Note: We saw tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear come through our office each year. The tech/media reporters would the stuff them for a trial basis, then it would be resold, with proceeds going to charity.

  43. Frankly, Chris, I think you’re making a big parade of your moral virtue on a topic that’s only marginally relevant to the original entry.

    Here’s what I want to know: are there any current or former professional editors in this discussion who don’t understand why Mark Frauenfelder and Chris Anderson have this policy?

  44. Moral virtue aside (ahem), can you please just tell us if Mark and the other BB’ers keep the freebies from PR people?

    That’s all. No more parade.

  45. And I think it’s very relevent, because the answer paints a more holistic picture of the relationship between BB, Wired, and the PR element.

    I think that would be useful information for PR people, people in the media, and most importantly, readers.

    Mark opened this can of worms, not me.

  46. Umm… Isn’t this why I subcribe to this blog? ‘Cause I don’t want to read all the press releases and you guys at BB are going to go through the millions of PRs to find the gems?

    I think I’m going to send you a nice gift basket of cheese to go with your…

  47. chipslug – I think everyone here would like an answer to your question, but doubt an honest one is forthcoming. :-( Although I do give them (TNH) credit for not disemvoweling your post out of hand…

  48. Here’s what I want to know: are there any current or former professional editors in this discussion who don’t understand why Mark Frauenfelder and Chris Anderson have this policy?

    That’s kind of a spurious argument, I think. I’m a programmer; I understand why Microsoft releases buggy code, and I understand the motivations behind their stealth updates a while back. That doesn’t mean either of those things are good ideas, or that all of us shouldn’t object to them.

    That said… I’m not an editor, but I totally understand why Mark and Chris would have such a policy, and fully support their doing so. The thing a lot of these objections seem to be missing is that reading press releases is NOT their respective jobs. I’m not sure I could easily define what their jobs ARE, but it’s certainly not sieving through stupid press releases.

    Chipslug – I’m not seeing that as hypocrisy. Neither Mark nor Chris forbid PR people from sending things to their organizations, they’re just taking a hard line on sending things to the wrong place within their organizations. Whether freebies bias coverage, and what boingboing’s policy is towards freebies is an interesting question, but I don’t see it as directly relevant to this discussion.

  49. Devophill – You only have to hit the “post” button once. Now continue with whatever it was you were doing.

  50. ChipSlug, that’s none of my business, and it’s certainly none of yours. You haven’t given us the least cause to think there’s some malfeasance going on. Suggesting that the boingers must be dishonest if you aren’t given information you’re not entitled to is just plain slimy.

    Tell you what: if you’ll send me a nice clear scan of your last year’s tax return so I can post it online, I’ll consider your request.

  51. Fuz (58), my apologies. I didn’t mean to imply that people in other professions couldn’t understand why Mark and Chris would do that. I was double-checking my assumption that anyone who has worked as an editor would understand their policy.


    Mark opened this can of worms, not me.

    Hogwash and codswallop. Mark did nothing of the sort. He wrote about his new policy for people who send him inappropriate press releases. That has nothing to do with random PR tat.

    Furthermore, your basic premise is wrong. “You may not accept anything from anybody” is a characteristic newspaper employee policy, used by newspapers to keep their underpaid employees on the straight and narrow. No way is it a general rule in other neighborhoods of the publishing industry.

    I’ve never once asked the boingers what they do with PR tat. However, I do know lots and lots of reputable editors, reviewers, freelance writers, publicists, agents, and members of related species. Insofar as they can be said to have a policy about PR freebies, it’s “Unsolicited merchandise is the property of the recipient.” Trade fiction editors will explicitly tell you that you can send any darn thing you want, as long as you understand that it won’t make a bit of difference. Reviewers commonly sell off review copies of books.

    All of those people are irritated by PR spam. I estimate that pretty much all of them have kept at least a few PR freebies. Does that mean they’re hypocrites? Does it mean that the journalists among them are lousy journalists?

    It does not. It never has. Your formulation–

    “If you’re annoyed by PR spam, but keep free gifts, you’re a a hypocrite and lousy journalist.”

    –is entirely your own invention, having neither tradition nor authority behind it. You’re puffing yourself up by pretending that it’s a rule of the universe, when the only thing backing it up is your credibility.

    How far does your credit stretch? Not nearly that far. We don’t know your real name. We don’t know whether you’ve actually been a professional journalist. And if we did know all that stuff, you still wouldn’t have the standing to demand information, or accuse the editors of dishonesty when you don’t immediately receive it.

  52. Trs,

    n th tch-md wrld thr r lts f pltcs srrndng fr hnd-ts. Wh gts m, wh kps, wh’s phn wrthy, nd wh sn’t. Y’r smrt prsn, nd knw y knw ths s tr.

    thnk t’s n ntrstng sbjct, nd t rlts vry drctly t th sbjct f th md’s rltnshp wth th PR lmnt, whch s th thm f th rgnl pst.

    f BBrs ccpt fr gr nd cmcs nd dvds n rglr bss, shld b bl t cnsdr thr rvws wth tht n mnd.

    ws smply crs bt BB’s tk n ths. Bt bsd n yr rspnss, thnk cn rd btwn th lns nd gt prtty gd pctr fr myslf.

  53. I can understand Anderson’s blanket position on press releases/spam and the individuals who send them (although posting the list was a bit mean-spirited), but I think Mark’s apparent policy (at least as he stated it in this post) is a lot harder to defend, and even a little bit silly.

    He says that any time he reads a press release that doesn’t interest him, he’s going to put the entire domain name of the sender into his killfile. That means if there’s one good flack at an agency who sends him multiple releases he finds “interesting,” and then a colleague at the same agency sends him a “boring” one, they both end up permanently blocked. And how many domains do you end up blocking that are actually referral/webmail sites or other entities that have no corporate link to the spammer, but aren’t obvious well-known names?

    Anyone can manage their own email however they please, but the fact that you’re putting a fairly arbitrary, guilt-by-association-based policy into effect doesn’t really seem like something worth bragging about.

    Regarding the freebies issue, I think there’s a big difference between corporate newspaper journalism built on an “objective reporting” paradigm, and a blog that has never purported to present anything but the opinions and obsessions of the creators.

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