Truly Fair Disclosure: RSS First, Before the Press Release

“I wonder how far off we are from ceasing to issue traditional press releases altogether… after all, no news agency could possibly suggest they reach a greater portion of the planet than the internet.”
                                           – Jonathan Schwartz, CEO & President
                                              Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz announced on his corporate blog that financial results would be reported on the company’s website and RSS feeds prior to their release to online news services.

This may not seem like a sea change, but it embodies Sun’s focus on “0penness” and their interest in the direct delivery of digital content. Its a good marketing move, and is the result of a policy discussion which took place largely on blogs.The negotiation to approve this distribution plan was visible in the blogosphere, with SEC Chairman Christopher Cox advancing the idea through a series of blog posts and interviews. He and Schwartz agreed, probably from the start, that releasing news via RSS feed was more equitable than through third-party public relations services, which charge subscription fees for the most timely news. This requirement of equal access in reporting is the core of the SEC’s Regulation Fair Disclosure.

Thanks to data standards such as XBRL, eXtensible Business Reporting Language, structured business data can be immediately made available from businesses to the applications that use that data outside the company. These direct connections between businesses and those who need their data represent a threat to public relations wire services.

Backlash from PR Wire Services
Business Wire’s CIO responded to this announcement with the argument that RSS feeds are not appropriate to carry corporate data. His quote: “… blogs are becoming an acceptable means for corporations to communicate with the public.” His argument is that RSS is poll-and-pull-based, so users only get new data when their service checks for updates.  He suggests that a push service gets the message out faster.

Business Wire still charges subscribers to receive their pushed data. They also make it freely available through their website–through the very same free RSS feeds that Business Wire argues against.

BuswireSo which is more equitable: letting everyone rely on RSS readers (or blog services) to check for Sun releases, or having an entire intermediary industry that pushes the information out to their customers for a price?

There are great reasons to use press services, such as gaining search engine links and, yes, even press coverage. But claiming that wire services provide greater equity than RSS feeds seems like the kind of position that you’d only take if, well … you were an officer of a news wire service.

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