Back in July when I half-jokingly suggested that we create An Email Blacklist of Technology PR Agencies, it stirred up quite a bit of discussion on my site and among PR bloggers. [See Bloglines citations and Technorati links.]

Today a message arrived at the address (the feedback address we publish on the Yahoo! Search blog) which started off like this:

Hi News,
As you may know, AOL today announced a trial for the new "AOL Hi-Q" high quality video format, allowing broadband users to access to video on demand features to watch online movie trailers, music videos and soon a selection of hundreds of classic TV titles from the Warner Bros collection. Kontiki, the leader in legal, secure peer-to-peer networking, is providing AOL with its Kontiki 5.0 grid delivery networking solution that enables the distribution of DVD-quality videos to consumers more quickly and efficiently.

It went on to include more text as well as a full copy of the press release.

Now here's the best part. Krause Taylor Associates, the PR agency that's spamming bloggers, also does work for a high-profile blogging company: SixApart. (Check their client list) They really ought to know better!

I wonder if the folks at SixApart can help get the message across to their PR agency: DO NOT SPAM US.

Do they honestly think that a news release about AOL's Hi-Q video format is going to have any bearing on the Yahoo! Search blog?

I'm pretty certain we never opted into a mailing list using that address. Its sole purpose is a point of contact for people reporting problems about or asking questions related to our official blog. The mailto: link is even labeled "Email us your feedback and suggestions" not "click here for an address you can add to your PR spam database!"


What will it take?

Posted by jzawodn at November 14, 2005 06:00 PM

Reader Comments
# Greg said:

Is this *really* that big of a deal?

on November 14, 2005 07:10 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I suspect we'll find out.

on November 14, 2005 07:55 PM
# Darren said:

I'm not defending this agency's actions (spam mailing press releases is wased effort, trust me). However, I do want to offer a point that Om Malik made a while back:

If we bloggers want the credibility and access that journalists receive, then we have to put up with the pleas of marketers as well. In short, you've got to take the bad with the good.

I'm sure you know journalists. Ask them how many spam mails they get each day (and, we should note, PR agencies aren't the only culprits, they're just the easiest targets).

Like I said, it's not good practice, but it's an accepted one in the co-dependent relationship between journalists and PR folks.

What do you think? Should bloggers be treated like journalists?

on November 14, 2005 08:10 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Darren, how does any of that matter in this case? We're talking about the Yahoo! Search blog? Do you really think we're worried about getting "the credibility and access that journalists receive"?

Come on...

on November 14, 2005 08:13 PM
# Darryl said:


"If we bloggers want the credibility and access that journalists receive, then we have to put up with the pleas of marketers as well. In short, you've got to take the bad with the good."

"We" bloggers do not want that credibility. Maybe some do but not all. Big difference no ?

on November 14, 2005 08:50 PM
# Anil said:

I'll pass the feedback on to the folks we know at KTA (not sure who contacted you vs. who I've talked to there) but I think you're making the same mistake that people do when they refer to Yahoo as some monolithic organization, instead of as a collection of individuals who might sometimes make mistakes.

Being realistic, maybe your name or someone else who's posted on Y! Search Blog was on a list of people's names who legitimately *would* be interested in an update on this service. (Folks indexing video for Y! video search perhaps?)

Then that name gets passed to someone, probably an intern, who's charged with finding a contact email to get in touch. A quick Googling of the name would result in whatever blog post was written, and hey -- whadaya know. There's a public email address right next to that person's blog post. That must be the address to use.

I can't say for sure whether this is even close to the real scenario, but I can say I wouldn't be surprised at all. And you know, for most companies, that'd be perfectly okay. It's fine to be a curmudgeon, but not everyone has the same sense of entitlement as a-list bloggers ("Don't you know who I am? I have very high pagerank!") so they don't usually refer to something like this as spam.

You're saying that a pitch with no attachments, with a working link to a real product, that just happens to be of no interest to you is spam? Because I get emails from regular folks (not professionals) every day who ask me to link to their blogs. Seems like this is in the same category.

Oh, and "Email us your feedback and suggestions" is absolutely *not* "a point of contact for people reporting problems about or asking questions related to our official blog". It's a place for *feedback and suggestions*. Sounds like you got a suggestion of something to look at and didn't like it. Maybe all the Y!Search Blog authors should work together to figure out a policy for what constitutes appropriate messages for that address -- I haven't seen any consensus from the many other authors of the blog, and it's not inconceivable that someone on the blog might want to link to an AOL service, even if only as a jumping off point for a post about something else.

Long story short, I'm not defending against the fact that the email was poorly targeted. But I think lumping KTA in alongside people who deliberately and knowingly spam is just irresponsible, and frankly shows a surprising bit of petulance. I'm certain there's much more intrusive or disrespectful communications that you could focus on publicly shaming.

on November 15, 2005 01:33 AM
# Andrew said:

What will it take? I think emails to their current clients to say; "Did you know?" will have more of an effect. The PR agency is more likely to stop it once they get complaints from the people who pay them.

on November 15, 2005 03:47 AM
# Jim Kukral said:

I don't know the details so answer these questions and let's clear this up.

1. Was it sent by an mass email list send program?

If yes, proceed to #2 & 3. If not, it can be argued that it was sent direct via a program like outlook to public addresses, and therefore not spam.

2. Did the people who received it opt in to the list?

3. Was there an unsubscribe method clearly in view?

Now, answer those questions and we'll tell if it's spam or not. I won't even get into can-spam stuff.

And to Anil, spam is spam is spam. Don't expect anyone to let anyone off, that's unrealistic, even if it was a mistake. Spam fighters are probably the most passionate geeks that exist, besides bloggers. :)

on November 15, 2005 06:16 AM
# Aimee said:

There are a few things to address here. Yes, it's really bad form to send an unsolicited email to any journalist or blogger....certainly a letter of introduction or phone call would be an appropriate start. But every PR firm will hire the occasional "twinkie" who may or may not take the easiest route to completing a job task. It happens. It's a mistake I imagine most PR newbies make once or twice.

But regarding bloggers as journalists...I think it's a role we have to accept whether we like it or not. Blogs are content sites, and some of us see a lot of traffic. We should expect PR pitches.

The challenge for the PR firms, though, is to understand that bloggers are different than journalists - much more casual, much more honest, and 9 times out of 10, free of publishers to whom we have to answer. If you want to promote something on a blog, you need to really build a relationship with that blogger. (In my case, send gourmet chocolates. Always a good start.) More so than with publications, PR folks need to be familiar with the blog content and the individual likes and dislikes of the blogger.

Amy Gahran's written a great piece on bloggers vs. journalists on her Contentious blog (

Also, (Tip to the twinkies) the smarter PR folks targeting blogs will use blogs and sites like to reach us. Far more effective than an unsolicited email or phone call. Relevant, useful blog comments are always welcome, too.

on November 15, 2005 07:36 AM
# Darren said:

Jeremy: My question was general, not specific to the Yahoo Seach blog. You've expressed these concerns in the past, so I'm curious about your view.

on November 15, 2005 08:30 AM
# grumpY! said:

for once i will say jeremy is right and all of the people who disagree with him are wrong. my life is too short for malinformation. by the way, PR is dead. it had a very short apex in the late 90s before people could accurately sniff maldata, but these days people can smell a "placed" article in a tech rag etc a mile away. the fact that PR is over as a tool is not lost on some of the hotshots i know who still work in the industry, they're just milking the last dollars out of it.

on November 15, 2005 11:22 AM
# Barbara Krause said:

We goofed when we sent you the email yesterday about our client’s news and we’re sorry. Here’s what happened. We were sending information about our client’s news to journalists and bloggers who have previously covered related topics, in this case video on demand, portals, AOL. The Yahoo Search Blog’s email address came up and was erroneously included. We try very hard NOT to spam anyone, and we simply made a mistake this time. Our sincere apologies – and you can bet it won’t happen again!

Barbara Krause, Krause Taylor Associates

on November 15, 2005 11:52 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Okay. You said:

"If we bloggers want the credibility and access that journalists receive, then we have to put up with the pleas of marketers as well. In short, you've got to take the bad with the good."

I agree. For some of us the "if" is a "yes" and others a "no." I'm in the "no" camp. If I wanted to be a [tech] journalist, I'd still be writing for Linux Magaizine or some other publication. They're always looking for folks who can write.

But my blog is not about journalism. It's about writting whatever I feel like writing when I feel like writing it. I do it for fun.

In *general* I agree. If someone wants to rise to the level of access and credibility that "real" journalists have, they probably have to put up with a lot more along the way.

on November 15, 2005 12:24 PM
# Tom Cunningham said:

Seems to me that their email and spam worked - it got posted on your blog. I wouldn't have heard of AOL Hi-Q service otherwise.

on November 15, 2005 12:53 PM
# Dave McClure said:

hey jeremy -

full disclosure: Simply Hired is also a KTA client (recently, as of last 30 days), and although we're new with them i can also vouch for their general 'cluefulness'. Eespecially for a PR firm, i think they get it (which is why they were recommended to us, and also why we chose them).

that said, i wonder how *SHOULD* a tech company approach Yahoo, if they had news that *was* targeted and relevant?

certainly you, Tim, Russell, and Jeffrey McManus (others as well) all represent Yahoo in some fashion publicly -- and while i don't assume your blog is the Yahoo PR line, i would guess that Yahoo Search blog does have a Yahoo PR-ish goal to it, right? i used to do the same thing for PayPal on the PDN blog, and we certainly used it like you folks use the Y! Search blog do to technical education & marketing for the family of PayPal-affiliated tools & vendors out there.

so KTA may have made a few obvious mistakes with the previous spamming, but assuming that:
1) they were sending info on a relevant topic, and
2) they wanted to reach appropriate folks at Yahoo to educate / inform them

then: how would you suggest they do that, and who should they be contacting? is there any map for who is the person to contact about Product X or Technology Y?

while i respect your right to not be contacted personally, and also that *your* blog isn't necessarily the Yahoo mouthpiece, on the other hand the Yahoo SearchBlog *is* a company mouthpiece... and it would seem appropriate that you folks help educate startups & their PR firms about what *are* appropriate ways to reach out to the Yahoo organization (for relevant messages, obviously).

as a startup potentially orbiting Yahoo (or Google's, or Microsoft's) sphere of influence, i'd certainly like to know the answer there... other than of course, taking you out for beers regularly & sending you lots of chocolate :)

- dave "don't want my PR firm to be the next Atlast One Point" mcclure

on November 15, 2005 12:58 PM
# Mena Trott said:

I usually try to stay out of these sort of debates, but since you mention Six Apart in this post and because I'm sick and tired of the mob mentality that blogging sometimes brings out, I'm taking the time to comment.

I find the title of your post to not only be inaccurate but intentionally damaging. We've worked with KTA for almost three years and the principals and staff are professionals who have been involved in the Valley for twenty plus years. In the three years we have worked with them, they have never suggested anything that borders on spamming and have worked hard to understand how public relations works well with blogging. To link them with spammers is just ridiculous and really self-indulgent.

I asked someone involved with KTA what happened and it was the address being on the wrong distribution list. These things unfortunately happen sometimes and Barbara (a real person!) apologized.

Blogging is a lot like the game of telephone. We can expect that as more people link and offer commentary, the original message or facts can get distorted. I have to constantly defend blogging because of this reason. And posts like yours make it harder to do so.

on November 15, 2005 03:49 PM
# Cortland Coleman said:


So you were on a distribution list for a press release? BFD. When this happens in the non-blogoshpere a simple phone call or personal reply is made to clear it up. It is inappropriate to forever smear KTA as a spammer based on the situation you described. You think the NY Times, LA Times, or even the Kingman Daily Miner is going to write a story about receiving an unsolicited pitch?

Mena is 100% right when she states that it is harder to defend blogging because of posts like this.

on November 15, 2005 06:01 PM
# TaraK said:

I'm one of the other ysearchblog administrators, with lots of PR and marketing skeletons of my own. I wish I had the full text of the email so that you could judge for yourself, but I regularly delete all the spam I get - as I'm sure you all do to. :-D

Using old-world PR tactics (like uncustomized email blasts) in the new world of blogger influencers can result in very public communications mishaps. I know. It happens alot and its not a surprise.

Moving on, I appreciate Barbara's comment here, as well as the comments of KTA's clients. In the end, if KTA does ends up as the new Atlas One Point, there are a string of supportive comments from the agency's most important client contacts - founders - to provide balance in the blogosphere around this single instance.

You could even argue that this conversation will do more good than people realize. Real testimonials in the worst of circumstances. Who would make this up?

on November 15, 2005 08:12 PM
# Dave McClure said:

JZ -

if you're done on this thread that's your call, but i think a few of us are hoping you'd review your position on this one -- and as a friend, i'd appreciate if you'd reconsider the headline for this post due to its SEO implications for KTA.

tara's upbeat observation about this thread becoming a positive testimonial aside, the title of your post has resulted in 'KTA spams bloggers' being #2 & #3 result on Google and #4 result on Yahoo when searching for KTA.

imho, seems like an unfair & rather arbitrary punishment meted out for an apparently unintentional & one-time mistake.

without other evidence to indicate a pattern of behavior, your implication of multiple target / repeat offenses certainly feels like overkill... unless you're just trying to make them a poster child for others.

while i appreciate you must get a crapload of email pitches from every startup under the sun, seems like a hammer being used where a tap on the shoulder would do.

my .02,

- dave mcclure

on November 16, 2005 10:55 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Important mental note: don't post stuff that will stir the pot just before heading out of town.

I'm trying to get caught up on everything so here are some quick consolidated responses.

* To those who complained about the title of my post: get over it. It does *exactly* what a title should do. It conveys in very few words what I'm trying to get across in the article.

* Many people seem concerned that "Krause Taylor Associates Spams Bloggers" will have negative affects on the company because it'll show up in Google. While it's not my "problem" I've changed the title to something a bit more vague. (A discussion of why I should or should not censor myself because of where Google may surface it is a discussion for later...)

* It's great to see people from Krause Taylor responding. But the explanation is a bit fishy. "The Yahoo Search Blog’s email address came up and was erroneously included." Came up how? Are we in some sort of database that we now need to opt out of? Is there a "find me email addresses of bloggers" service that I've not seen?

* In case it's not abundantly obvious, I get A LOT of this stuff in my mailbox. And I'm going to say something about it from time to time.

* "I have to constantly defend blogging because of this reason. And posts like yours make it harder to do so." says Mena. I'm a little surprised to hear that you're often asked to defend blogging. Was this before the Forbes cover story too, or is more of a recent problem?

* Dave asked how companies should be contacting Yahoo? I'd suggest doing what nearly every other PR agency and journalist already do with us and most other big companies: go through our PR and Media Relations folks. Believe it or not, we put contact information in every single press release we issue. And that's info for contacting people whose job it is to deal with journalists, PR folks, and media questions. They do this all day, every day.

Anyway, I'll probbably have more to say later. I'm still at a conference and trying to keep up with mail, blogs, comments, etc. while also trying to feel like I'm actually at the conference.

on November 16, 2005 12:01 PM
# Barbara Krause said:

Hi, Jeremy,

In your last post, you said: * It's great to see people from Krause Taylor responding. But the explanation is a bit fishy. "The Yahoo Search Blog’s email address came up and was erroneously included." Came up how? Are we in some sort of database that we now need to opt out of? Is there a "find me email addresses of bloggers" service that I've not seen?

Here’s the blow by blow description of what happened: We did a search on MediaMap using key words which pertained to the news we were announcing. Those words were video on demand, portals and AOL. The Yahoo Search Blog record came up, presumably because the record contains the word “portal.” That entry was then placed on the list of thirty or so people to whom we were going to send the information. It obviously shouldn’t have been!

Since then, I did another search on MediaMap specifically on you -- and your personal blog and personal email address is also in the database. I am happy to contact MediaMap and try (as others have already apparently tried to do) to get you and the Yahoo Search Blog removed. In fairness to MediaMap, though, they are quite explicit in telling PR professionals that we should not be sending press releases to Yahoo Search Blog, and on your personal entry, it says “BEWARE! Proceed with caution when contacting this blogger.” Good advice!

Barbara Krause, Krause Taylor Associates

on November 16, 2005 01:52 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Ah, thanks. Media Map was the missing detail.

That explains a lot. I knew that I was in Media Map (others have told me) and am okay with that, since I do write about other companies and prodcuts.

Ths Yahoo Search blog, on the other hand, seems like a very weird one to have listed in MM. We may have to contact them and get it removed, since it seems that MM doesn't pay attention to the *intent* of the blog when listing it.


Thanks again.

on November 16, 2005 02:06 PM
# Greg said:

> To those who complained about the title of my post: get over it. It does *exactly* what a title should do. It conveys in very few words what I'm trying to get across in the article.

So why did you change the title then?

Wow, looks like you hurt a lot of your and Yahoo's relationships with this post.

on November 16, 2005 04:38 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Did you see what I wrote earlier?

"A discussion of why I should or should not censor myself because of where Google may surface it is a discussion for later..."

Stay tuned.

on November 16, 2005 04:41 PM
# Stephen said:

Don't you think you should change the headline again? Seeing as though you weren't spammed in the first place.

You were merely targeted from a database that you had opted into.

on November 18, 2005 12:35 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Uhm, no. We never "opted" that address into the database. Re-read what's been written here.

on November 18, 2005 10:55 PM
# Stephen said:

It really doesn't matter if you "opted" in or not. Your details are in a media database specifically used by PR professionals to target (not spam) reporters, bloggers and news agencies. And as you've said a couple of posts up, you know you are in MediaMap.

**grumpY!** The PR dead meme is boring now (yawn). People who continue to say this obviously don't know what PR is and does. As well as standing for (P)ress (R)elease, it also stands for Public Relations.

PR works in both the online and off-line worlds, helping not-for-profit organisations such as charities raise money, working in the in-house sector helping organisations communicate to employees or helping governments communicate health issues to the general public. The list goes on.

To say PR is dead because the traditional press release doesn't work with (some) bloggers is rather an ill-informed statement to make. A press release is only one of many tools a PR agency will use. And it still works fine with the main stream media.

Yes, spam is spam and no doubt there will be some back street agencies doing this - just like every profession has bad apples, but KTA's own clients have came out and defended their professionalism which to me personally, says a lot about the company right there.

on November 19, 2005 04:00 AM
# David said:

If you have kids, you might have seen a show called the rubba dubbas, in which there is an episode where the toy crocodile has a shop and all these pesky people keep coming in to buy stuff, posing the horrible threat that he might be forced to sell some of his lovely inventory. Your posting reminds me of that episode. If you don't want to recieve news releases, stop publishing news; problem solved.

Since the first newspaper opened its doors, this is how publishing has functioned. If you want to insult AOL, they have bigger targets to hit! That the news release is off-toic might be stupid on their part, but that does not make it spam.

on December 4, 2005 06:25 PM
# Joel said:

C'mon, Media Map is just a starting point of reference. It's not a living, breathing Bible of who's who in the media or analyst community. Everyone in agency knows that.

Pitching bloggers is about knowing what interests *them* and their audience. It’s not about keyword search and lists. Stephen above says MM is to "target, (not spam)" bloggers, but yet that's exactly what KTA did. Ms. K even posts the blow by blow of how Jeremy got spammed.

Look, I’m not a huge fan of Jeremy’s rants against PR. If someone at KTA had been reading Jeremy's blog regularly (just like I'm sure they do with professional journalists) they’d have raised a flag when his name ended up on that Media Map list KTA imported into Excel. A blast email is a blast email, even when it goes to a blogger. I’m not sure that’s doing the PR profession any favors.

on December 13, 2005 04:24 AM
# Tim Arnold said:

What many people miss here with the like journalist story...The difference is these spammers are not paying to use the blogs for there spam...if they were then they would be the same....face it spammers are scum. They waste bandwidth, time, money and usually cause much of the virus and other problems...they have no right or place in blogs. I say there should be stiff fines and penalties not only of the spammers but the companies they are pushing!

on May 7, 2006 11:59 AM
# John said:

With spam fast becoming a pesky part of business electronic communication, it is not surprising that every individual blogger and companies also, worldwide are starting to look at legislation as a way to curb its growth.

on September 12, 2006 09:44 AM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.