I’ve been a reader of HARO for a number of years now. I wasn’t an early adopter, but as soon as I knew about it, I subscribed. It seemed like a pretty egalitarian thing: journalists posted a query and a bunch of PR people evaluated whether it fit a client and if so, submitted a pitch.

I have monitored HARO on behalf of my clients four times a day and have passed along scores of leads over the years.

HARO founder Peter Shankman’s approach to sponsorships was both brilliant and entertaining. Rather than just sell a banner ad, he actually would write up a paragraph about the product or service in a readable, often funny, always energetic style that was many times more effective than any static online ad could ever be.

But I just unsubscribed from HARO, thereby freeing up some inbox real estate and saving some otherwise wasted time out of my days. Why do I say “wasted?” because something I had suspected for a while was confirmed for me last week.

I suspected it was going to happen when Shankman sold out to Vocus, the PR and media-management software package. Slowly Shankman eased out of the way, ceding his ad-writing duties to interns and the quality of the queries steadily diminished. HARO is not what it was and it will never be that again.

Last week I was contacted out of the blue by a guy on LinkedIn who asked me if I was familiar with Vocus, PRWeb and HARO. I wrote him back to share my not-very-positive thoughts on Vocus, developed over the course of dealing with its sales staff over the years; I explained we don’t use wire distribution services and I mentioned that I thought the quality of HARO queries had dropped precipitously, to which he replied:

“Also in regards to HARO, the free content has changed…the best opportunities are reserved for our clients. Just got one of my clients to Good Morning America and 2 [sic] other national TV appearances.”

Gee, I never remember seeing a national TV query on HARO. Now I know why. I naively didn’t realize that you could pay for the better queries, but should you pay $19, $49 or $149 per month? I guess Vocus has a sliding scale of value for queries, and whatever is left over when the payers get done pawing it slide down into the “free” trough.

I wonder if any of the 30,000 media who supposedly post queries know that their query is not being seen by the purported 100,000 PR types who subscribe to HARO, but is instead being “sold” to whoever pays more. Or worse, maybe none of the paying clients are interested in their pitch, so it goes into the trough for the unpaying lot to scramble for.

So count me out, HARO. I won’t waste any more time reading your loser queries, and I guess I’ll just stick to doing media relations the old-fashioned way — working for it, not paying for it.

5 Thoughts on “Why I Unsubscribed from HARO”

  • Hi, Buck. Thanks for the article. Do you mind if I address a few points?

    #1) Whoever told you that queries are “reserved” for paying clients, is either lying, or an idiot. We have never done that. We never WILL do that. I made it clear when I sold HARO that this would never happen, and it hasn’t. If you subscribe to the premium edition of HARO, you can get text alerts saying there’s a query that matches a keyword you’ve chosen, and then you have to get the HARO, just like everyone else, and find it and pitch it. Nothing is “reserved,” and the good ones are just as good for the free version, like it’s always been.

    2) It’s not about me. I’m glad you liked my comments in the front of the HARO, they were fun to write. But you know what? HARO is about helping you and your clients get into the media. It’s NOT about me. You know what IS about me? My blog. My Facebook page. My Twitter stream. Want more of me? Visit me there. HARO is about helping people get into the media.

    3) The queries haven’t diminished. In fact, they’ve increased, and the quality has increased in the past two years. Past week: 175 queries from major Tier one publications. a few hundred from blogs, and books. Others… The queries have increased, Buck. They haven’t decreased. You sure you were still taking the time to read them?

    4) You know what? I created HARO, and I’m still damn proud of what it is. Calling them “loser queries” has destroyed any validity your argument had. Guess what – It’s still what I built. Do me a favor, Buck… Don’t insult what I’ve built. Whether I’m involved daily, or just every once in a while, I still built it. And insulting what I’ve built really pisses me off.

  • Buck, that’s simply not true. I’m sorry we’ve managed to scare you away, but Vocus is a good company with good people and Peter is still very much part of the company. HARO is still free and there is no reservation of opportunities. That is flat wrong. The newsletter is filled with tons of good queries that present opportunities to anyone that wishes to get them.

    • Thanks to Peter and Frank for the replies. I can only go by my own experience, and that is that the quality of the queries in the travel edition ain’t what it used to be, based on the number that I forward to clients. I actually find that lately I’ve been getting more relevant travel queries through TravMedia than HARO. Maybe I’ll resubscribe, but I’ll have to think about it. Unlike Peter, I’m going to wait until I calm down from being accused of slander. I always find it’s a good practice to toss the first draft and write a second after one’s temper has abated.

  • Sorry if you thought I was over the top, Buck. Over the top is what made HARO what it is today. And, like I said, it’s kinda hard to stay calm when someone refers to what you’ve built as a “loser” – As you did.

  • Thanks Buck for bringing this to my attention. Didn’t realize that HARO was bought by Vocus. But I have to agree with Buck; when smaller entrepreneurial companies get acquired by much larger ones, often times they can lose their entrepreneurial spirit.

    And Peter, I’m not saying that happened to you as you do have other companies. And based on your very aggressive (vitriolic perhaps) post you have certainly not lost your spirit. Yes, you should be very proud of what you created. But it’s not yours anymore. It now belongs to a public company (NASDAQ: VOCS) so now you have to worry about things like EPS, forecasts and analyst relations. But one thing you have not learned about is customer relations. Instead of apologizing to him for his negative experience with Vocus and asking what you could do to win him back you accuse him of insulting you. I don’t think that Buck was being critical or insulting to you personally, to the contrary, he was quite complementary of you and HARO under your leadership. He even said that your approach “was both brilliant and entertaining.”

    You know, you didn’t have to sell out to Vocus. Nobody put a gun to head. It was a decision you made and probably a good financial decision or you wouldn’t have done it. But you do have to live with the consequences. So instead of attacking anyone who is unhappy with Vocus, you should focus on retaining them as HARO clients.

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