Helpareporter.com Hits a Speed Bump

Last Updated Apr 8, 2008 2:18 PM EDT

Helpareporter.com (HARO) is a wonderful new free service that collects queries from reporters seeking sources and passes them along to PR pros. But it hit a speed bump yesterday that could ultimately doom the service.

Turns out one of the subscribers was republishing the emails from HARO on a blog. That generated the following email from HARO founder Peter Shankman:

Subject: NO. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO POST MY EMAILS ON YOUR SITE
You're posting my HARO emails on your site without my permission.

REMOVE THEM NOW.

...

Take EVERY SINGLE ONE DOWN NOW, and NEVER post another one of my emails.

Peter Shankman

[Copied from the following blog: http://www.eriksherman.com/WriterBiz/2008/04/help-reporter-query-service-getting.html]
Now, I get that this is a bit of a problem. Part of the charm of HARO is that it's supposed to be simple and clear. Reporter has a need, seeks sources, gets responses from HARO subscribers.

But the world isn't that simple. It just isn't. For starters, email is Internet content. It may not be de facto ok to republish it, but you can't just tell people no. What's to stop the offender from resubscribing via another email account and reposting the emails via an anonymous blog? Nothing, really. Or, what's to stop a HARO subscriber from forwarding a HARO email to any number of their friends? Again, nothing.

I signed up for the service a couple of weeks ago when Shankman moved it off Facebook and onto its own site, and there were no real terms of service and certainly no rules or restrictions articulated regarding forwarding or posting the queries. So actually, the blogger was allowed to post HARO queries on her site, as far as I'm concerned, until Shankman threw the hissy-fit above.

This post isn't about ethics. I could argue both sides of the ethics debate. What its about is that the Internet is a super-powerful communications tool and you can't take for granted that pre-Internet rules of engagement automatically apply. You have to anticipate how the power of the Internet may impact what you are doing or want to do, and adapt. You just can't make assumptions.

So if Shankman wants to make HARO a strong and viable service that will survive, he'll have to think through some of these implications and adapt or change the service. Otherwise, HARO is going to flame out, as journalists abandon it because they no longer find it to be an efficient and credible source of information.

  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.