PR, Politics of RSS, Unintended Consequences

Continuing on yesterday’s topic of RSS, I am now starting to understand the importance of RSS standards and appreciating the related politics.  There appears to be lots of teeth gnashing and back and forth about these topics.

Here is where it gets interesting from a PR standpoint.  It shows why us PR folk should stay attuned to some of these issues which at first might appear to be just tech talk and religion.

Scripting News blogged today about Sun’s move to release financial results first via RSS:

Mike
Dillion
is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
for Sun Microsystems. On his blog he says "We’re trying something
different…"

He says: "On Monday, we will release our financial information first to the
public via our website, RSS feeds and 8-K filing. Then, about 10 minutes later,
we will release the information to the traditional private agencies and their
paid subscribers.

This alone was not that surprising – I had blogged about Sun’s intention to do this after the NY Times reported this back in November 2006 (What Next, a MySpace Profile?).  Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times What’s Online column:

Jonathan Schwartz, the chief executive of  Sun Microsystems,
has called for the S.E.C. to accept the use of the Web to disclose
significant financial information to shareholders under Regulation FD
(for “fair disclosure”). Complaining that his lawyers kept warning him
off discussing various company-related issues on his blog, he decried
Regulation FD’s insistence that companies use “anachronistic” methods
like conference calls and news releases to disclose financial
information (blogs.sun.com/jonathan).

Then, I caught Sam Ruby’s post from yesterday, First Impressions, on the Intertwingly blog (this goes to the "unintended consequences" part of my post title).  Here’s an excerpt:

"Jonathan
Schwartz
: to get the latest updates directly from Sun, be sure to
subscribe to our RSS
feeds
.

You know, people use the term RSS like Kleenex
As long as Sun isn’t using RSS 2.0 to disclose
financial results
, it will probably be OK.  Let’s take a look at the first feed.

Oops.

Oh, well, it probably is still OK.  If RSS 2.0 is used correctly, and Sun is
a technology company after all, it will probably be OK.  Probably.  Let’s take a
closer
look
at that first feed.

This feed does not validate.  Eek!

OK, so in English, what’s the problem here?  Well items are intended to be
identified by globally
unique identifiers
…  It is not good if you are trying to convince the
SEC
that syndication is a reliable mechanism for distributing financial
results."

Oh well, as they say, "no good deed goes unpunished."  Releasing financial information via blogs and RSS might seem like another chink in the armor of the venerable and dated press release and associated news release wire services.  Yet standards and details are important and there’s still lots of work to do to perfect PR 3.0.

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