Monday, June 20, 2011

Spider Man syndrome: How long will an embargo hold?

It's a great way to build up a tsunami-sized wave of...resentment among reporters. I'm talking about the embargo without end, one that expects reporters to sit on a story for way too long without reporting on it. That policy may have done in the Broadway musical Spider Man: Turn off the Dark, which opened this week to reviews with leads like this one in the New York Times:
First seen and deplored by critics several months ago — when impatient journalists (including me) broke the media embargo for reviews as the show’s opening date kept sliding into a misty future — this singing comic book is no longer the ungodly, indecipherable mess it was in February. It’s just a bore.
That's just the most high-profile case of an ever-shifting embargo with plenty of time for reporters to get resentful, bored and defiant, with a tendency to share those reactions in their coverage, to boot. But if you think that's reserved for the bright lights of Broadway, think again. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine embargoed news releases for its annual conference weeks ahead of the meeting, but made them freely available on its website at the same time. Embargo Watch blog highlighted the case, and has been successful at convincing other groups to stop making embargoed information freely available during the embargo period. But that still leaves the long wait time.

You might not care about the resentment and comments you'll get for setting an over-long embargo, but you're certainly risking an embargo break with such timing--or just boredom and no coverage. The question is how long? In the science world, journals with weekly publication dates tend to adhere to weekly embargoes, and conferences allow more time on the presumption that the large amount of research being released en masse demands it (leaving aside those freely available data). What's the longest embargo you'd set--or accept? Leave word in the comments. (Photo from cameraslayer's photostream on Flickr)

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