Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The *new* media battle: COMMANDOpera vs. San Diego Opera ... It's a jungle out there

Well, there was quite a storm that raged over the blogosphere today. It was set off by an unfortunate incident between my Crew Mantle friends over at COMMANDOpera and my former employers over at San Diego Opera.

Let me break it down for you:

COMMANDOpera received the San Diego Opera 2011 season announcement early last week and the announcement was clearly marked embargo. For those of you Chickens who aren't savvy on the language, this requires the document to not be published in any manner whatsoever until the date specified.

[Uhm... ps: Friends at SD Opera - where was *my* embargoed copy?]

Now, according to COMMANDOpera:
Typically, an embargoed document is sent to the press no more than a few days in advance which is wise, as leaks do happen the longer a document is out there. COMMANDOpera received the document for the 2011 San Diego season on the first of April at 11:45 E.S.T. The document was marked “Embargoed for Release Monday April 19″. Unfortunately, when you recieve the quantities of mail as does COMMANDOpera, one glances at certain documents, particularly those which do not own immediate relevance that must be dealt with. Noting the word ‘embargo’, the only other word which registered on that single glance of a week ago was the day of Monday. COMMANDOpera has never once encountered an embargoed document that arrived three weeks in advance. Ever. Yesterday (Monday) at 12 P.M. E.S.T., with the intent to make sure the theatre was first to break the announcement, COMMANDOpera went to the San Diego website to see if they had updated their site to reflect the 2011 season. One found at that precise moment the link on the front page to the entire 2011 season for subscriptions. Once there, any reader will find ALL the relevant details to the new season. The 2011 season page is further accesible on the ‘Operas’ tab under ‘2011 international Season’ on the front page which has nothing to do with subscriptions. If THAT were not enough, in the same ’Operas’ tab on the front page, you can find out about the upcoming productions for 2012 AND 2013 under ‘Future‘. After finding all of this on the site, COMMANDOpera assumed the website was being updated literally at that moment one was researching. And thus went ahead and published an announcement of the four production season.
And *that*, Ladies and Gents, was when the wheels started coming off the bus.

San Diego Opera got wind of the publication and immediately demanded the announcement be taken down. And let's be honest, why wouldn't they? When you send an announcement with a strict embargo on it, you expect for that to be respected.

Well, let's just say this... COMMANDOpera had a fit:
Beyond removing the announcement, COMMANDOpera removed the link to the San Diego Opera, and will no longer cover the theatre. Why? One may have made a simple error and rectified it immediately and left the matter there, however the content and strident tone emitting from the individual representing the theatre to COMMANDOpera was unacceptable behaviour. To actually suggest he would go out of his way to impugn the reputation of COMMANDOpera and thus myself with other theatres is reprehensible and unbecoming of San Diego’s public relations representitive. COMMANDOpera has made a point to cover small regional theatres such as the San Diego Opera alongside of the major global players to enhance their visibility. The luxury to be seen on the pages of COMMANDOpera and read in over seventy countries is not a right, but rather at the elect disposition of Crew Mantle. Uncivilized and injurious behaviour to COMMANDOpera is untenable from any dominion and will not be tolerated.
Wait ... I'm sorry - let's take a second to back up the truck, COMMANDOpera. Did you really say "small regional theatres such as San Diego Opera"? Considering San Diego Opera is one of the largest opera companies in the country and employs singers from all over the world - I think your zeal to paint San Diego Opera in a pejorative light is a little far fetched.

In the interest of covering both sides of the story, I did reach out to San Diego Opera for a comment and, not surprisingly, I received:
We have no comment concerning COMMANDOpera.
Now - you want to know what I think? Sure you do... because why wouldn't you.

At the potential expense of having my link removed from COMMANDOpera, here's my take on the situation: Friends at COMMANDOpera, you screwed up ... royally. Embargoed info is just that - embargoed. Yes, you rectified it. But, if San Diego Opera's representatives were strident with you, they kind of had a right to be.

Some opera companies tread very lightly where we bloggers are concerned and it takes quite a bit of time for us to build up trust and rapport with them. Let's face it, bloggers are not really considered to be 'press' in the traditional sense. But, we are held to the same code of ethics that governs traditional media. The harsh truth of the matter is, mistake or not, the actions of blogs like COMMANDOpera have a bigger repercussion on how information is shared with us bloggers in this world of "new media."

If they can't trust the "new media", we wont be fed relevant and timely information. At all. Period. And THAT would be a crime. "New media" is a give and take. We need them just as much as they need us.

COMMANDOpera, when you say "The luxury to be seen on the pages of COMMANDOpera and read in over seventy countries is not a right, but rather at the elect disposition of Crew Mantle." you speak the truth. But, if you abuse the trust of those on which you report - again, by mistake or not - there isn't going to be a damned thing on your blog for those people in seventy countries to read.

Am I right?

Now, not knowing what was in the embargoed release, I can't say whether or not the information given was the exact information that is currently public domain on the San Diego Opera website. What I can say is this: the line becomes blurred for us bloggers when we are given embargoed information to hold on to but, can turn around and find similar (or the exact same) information published on the company's website.

There are bloggers out there (and, you know who you are) who would publish the embargoed release and just say "Hey, I got if off your website".

San Diego Opera ... here's a little secret a birdie once told me: there are companies that publish critical information on their website and then take the information down from the website for a couple of months. At which time they send out an embargoed press release and republish / relaunch the same info just to get more bang for the buck.

It's imperative that we remember the boundaries for new media are being drawn every day. That's why it's called *new* media. It is important for bloggers to remember the foggy code of ethics that we are mysteriously held to - just as it's important for companies to remember that sometimes *new* means that some of us are still learning.

As we negotiate our way through this massive internet jungle - which is full of wonderment and danger - we must be careful. After all, it *is* a jungle out there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just want to state that I have never heard of Commandopera until your post... And San Diego Opera is a Tier 1 Company, as every idiot and their mama knows.I sure as hell wouldn't want to piss anyone over there off.

" 'The LUXURY'to be seen on the pages of COMMANDOpera and read in over seventy countries is not a right...? blahblah..." Puh-leeeeze.

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