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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kotaku Doesn't Play Ball - Sony Blackballs

Did you know the phrase blackball actually refers to a black ball? Learn something new every day.

Sony's apparently handed a darkly colored orb to Kotaku for posting PlayStation 3 rumors. These are rumors which Kotaku actually went through some effort to vet and verify. In doing so, Sony apparently threatened their "professional relationship" if Kotaku went forward with the post. Kotaku did and now Sony has pulled all their interviews and meetings with them.

An outsider's guess? Sony wanted to trumpet some new PlayStation 3 features at GDC and Kotaku stole their thunder. Sony needs to trumpet some new PlayStation 3 features - so I actually hope this is the case.

However this is a prime example that Sony's core problem with modern public relations is cultural. This is Dave Karraker, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, in his letter:

This included getting people access to executives, opening our events to more individuals and personally responding as quickly as possible to inquiries. This was done in good faith with the thought that the people I was working with would operate with the same integrity and courtesy I think I demonstrated when I was a reporter. Basically, I went out on a limb for a lot of people -- people SCEA PR and SCEA management had written off. I caught a lot of flack for it from folks, but I felt strongly it was the right thing to do.

I am very disappointed that after trying to work with you as closely as possible and provide you and your team with access and information, you chose to report on this rumor.... I can't defend outlets that can't work cooperatively with us.
-- Sony Blackballs Kotaku - Kotaku

As a reporter, and assuming the guess is right, Sony's executives should have realized they were scooped. Kotaku had the goods and every reason to move forward with them. Sony responded with threats. Now the result is that the rumor is out and Sony has severed ties.

Who wins?

Sony is completely out of touch here. Let's be frank. Kotaku can publish nearly any Internet rumor supported by the barest of forum fodder and still pretty much pay the bills with incoming traffic. In fact, I'm pretty certain at times they have. Yes, some people will stop reading them. I'm pretty certain I was one of them.

However, if I know that Kotaku would take the effort if only Sony would pick up the phone - I'd keep them on the feed reader. And now still do. Knowing that Sony is officially cutting off ties basically gives Kotaku carte blanc to print just about anything they want about Sony now. They can always point to Dave's email as proof they would vet the story if Sony would just let them.

It's Sony - not Kotaku - who should have been playing ball in this case. If they were about to be scooped they could have offered a trade to keep the post out until after the GDC keynote. Exclusives, swag, beer or whatever.

They didn't. Instead of trading - they resort to threats. Why? Culture. Pure and simple. The same company that thought faux ghetto speak on an even more faux blog doesn't think they should have to swap furs with the new media. Blogs are, apparently, the medium of hip music deejays who can't string sentences and really, really want a PSP. It's not just that Sony doesn't take the grassroots seriously - they're practically mocking them.

Kotaku exits the fray with more credibility. Sony just looks like a bully.

In a nutshell: The story remains up and Sony has re-invited us to the meetings and interviews initially scheduled for the Game Developers Conference.

It's unfortunate that we, not just Kotaku and Sony, but all of us had to go through this, but it's good to see the outcome: We were doing our job and Sony was doing theirs and now we can both continue to do so.
-- Sony and Kotaku Make-Up - Kotaku

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