Play nice sign
I’ve had innumerable conversations with friends and colleagues over the years who’ve somehow felt burned by name-your-publication; nowadays even non-celebrities can (and often do) live with a cloud over their head on the internet — and I think if there’s any one truism about the intersection of publicity and online media, it’s that the era of “all press is good press” is long gone. Maybe that’s a given, but here’s exactly why:

The theory used to be that because exposure came party to an ephemeral medium (print), one could usually find value in bad press for its ability to act as a mechanism of discovery and interest-upkeep. This value thought to be inherently greater than any lasting damage, especially when that medium — print — is such a finite commodity, and getting any press at all presented a major challenge. And hey, either way tomorrow morning it’s out of sight, out of mind.

The democratization of niche micro-publishing, though, completely killed the concept of good bad press. Whereas before your press had positive or negative value equatable only to the number of eyeballs who bought and scanned that piece of paper, now any and all exposure you receive is equally findable, be it on the New York Times or on Jim’s Yet-Another-Wordpress Blog. In fact, scratch that — usually the more negative or salacious the exposure, the greater the weight it seems to carry (and thus more probable it is to be highly ranked in search). See: Sarah Lacy.

And, of course, all the upsides to the good bad press seem obviated; the medium is no longer ephemeral, there’s no barrier to entry for publishing OR consuming, and there’s certainly no limit on how many bad things can be said about you (or your company, product, movie, etc.). Anyone can hide from tomorrow’s paper, but no one can hide from nigh-immortal data that’s indexed, cached, and forever more findable.

What’s it mean? Well, maybe that’s not for me to say. But I certainly hope we, as a society that now both consumes and contributes to media at large, can think a little harder about things before hitting the all-powerful publish button.
Photo via Worth1000