What's In a
Newswire - And Does It Matter?
This article might be easier to read in hard copy
- click here to download a PDF
By Jon Boroshok
of PR practitioners have asked if there is a difference between
one press release distribution service (newswire) and another. In
an attempt to find a definitive answer, The PR/Marcom Manager decided
to try a revolutionary tactic. Rather than go to the vendors themselves
and risk an answer full of sales rhetoric, ask the recipients -
Does the "brand"
of news wire selected for distributing press release affect whether
a journalist will read it or use it? Is one news wire company any
more journalistically credible than another? Journalists were given
a hypothetical situation: If they simultaneously received the same
release via Business Wire, PR Newswire, and Internet Wire, would
they be more likely to open it via one particular wire? Would one
wire lend more credibility? Would one result in more "hits"
Agency and corporate
PR "flacks" know that their success is measured by a bottom
line approach - did they receive coverage or not. This same approach
was a focus of this article.
with journalists or representatives from the newswires themselves,
The PR/Marcom Manager limited discussion about who offers what services,
or any peripheral products, options, or features. There was no discussion
about customer support.
Here are some
typical journalist replies:
"I use PR Newswire the most.
I cover telecom and usually need only telecom-specific news. I've
found this site does the best job of breaking out telecom into
a separate category, so I don't have to wade through a bunch of
general technology releases too."
King, Senior Writer - The Net Economy
"I don't think I've seen Internet Wire, but the other two
are pretty much equal in my mind, and I tend to read them when
the headline doesn't sound ridiculous. I'd consider reading e-mails
from other newswires, again depending on the header and possibly
a brief scan of the contents."
Nyberg, Staff Writer - CFO Magazine
"I don't really see a whole lot of difference in the veracity
or respectability of the various newswires. Some I'll tend to
use more than others, but only because of ease of use -- not because
I feel one is more reliable and trustworthy. If I'm taking the
time to scan a newswire, I'm going to also take the extra step
in opening up a press release or news item -- regardless of what
wire I'm using."
Matt Wickenheiser, Editor - WaferNews; Semiconductor Weekly
"Business Wire does a daily telecom round-up of news releases
that I really like. It makes it easier for me to see what's going
on in telecom, rather than having to go to the BW Web site and
troll for telecom-related press releases. But, don't get me wrong,
we monitor them all. The PR news wire is good, too. Although,
it used to be easier to navigate the PR news wire. They have vamped
up their site and it seems to take longer to get to the press
releases I want."
Mendez-Wilson, Wireless Week Magazine
"I get and subscriber to a number of these wires, including
Business Wire and PR Newswire. For the most part, I don't really
care what wire releases come from - the news wires are pretty
much all the same. The nice part is that you can quickly scan
a number of announcements in one place to see if there's anything
you need. To me, if the information in a release is relevant to
something I am working on or if it's a product that may fit into
the edition, I will call the PR guy for more information. To me,
the wires are a quick way to scan things all in one place and
pretty much all offer the same information."
Buckley , Staff Editor - Telecommunications Magazine
"You're looking at the problem through the wrong end of the
telescope. Wire services have absolutely no impact how I feel
about a release--zero, zip, nothing. However, there's a good deal
of difference from the CLIENT end of things. One difference is
the degree to which a wire service can create a well-targeted
selection of recipients; another is the completeness of the wire
service's lists. I was pleased to find that several of the smaller
services have never heard of me, which cuts down the PR spam I
get--but if I'm the kind of person their clients want to reach,
the list is a dud."
Tarter, Editor - Softletter
"Business Wire and PR Newswire may carry a bit more credibility
than others because they've been around a while. I figure a firm
paying to use them is probably legit. The rest are just part of
a big blur to me. The most important thing about a wire to me
is that it be available via the major news retrieval services
-- Dow Jones or Nexis/Lexis."
Convey, Reporter - Boston Herald
responses provide media confirmation of the suspicions of many PR
practitioners - there is little difference in newswires when it
comes to media reception. Need more proof? How about a more formal
survey, thanks to Dan Janal, co-founder of ShowStoppers Media Receptions
Janal, his company recently e-mailed a survey to 4,000 tech reporters
on a ShowStoppers house list, and 277 responded. While this may
not be a statistically significant sampling of all U.S. journalists
across all beats, the results of the tech reporter survey backs
the common belief among the PR set that journalists don't see a
major difference between news wires. Reporters were asked how often
they use/check Business Wire, PR Newswire, Internet Wire, and Internet
News Bureau, with choices being daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly,
annually, or never. Business Wire and PR Newswire scored nearly
identical numbers in each category, while Internet Wire placed a
distant third. Internet News Bureau was practically a distant afterthought.
Hitting the right targets for less money
PR practitioners have become better educated consumers. Those with
PR expertise and business acumen know when to bypass the higher-priced
full distribution offered by all the newswires, and opt for cost
efficient targeted "circuits" and "newslines,"
which are specialized lists based on industry or geography. All
circuits/newslines include distribution that meets SEC full disclosure
regulations. Many also allow the sender of the release to select
free distribution to appropriate vertical trades.
Netspoke (www.netspoke.com), a Boston-based provider of reservationless
teleconferencing and Web conferencing services sent a press release
via BusinessWire. The 500-word release could have been sent via
the National Circuit (called US 1 on PR Newswire) at a cost of $690.
Netspoke was advised by their PR agency that as a privately-held
company based in Boston, their news would be of interest to local
media and to vertical trade media, but not be covered by local media
outlets outside of the Boston area. Netspoke sent the release via
Business Wire's "Massachusetts Regional Circuit," and
selected free distribution to appropriate vertical media, at a total
cost of $125.
and savings would also be possible via PR Newswire. Internet Wire
does not offer regional circuits, although their charges for a full
national distribution are considerably less than full distribution
via BW or PRN.
The Newswires Speak
The PR/Marcom Manager interviewed Tom Becktold, Business Wire's
VP of Marketing, and Michael Terpin, Internet Wire's Chairman &
Chief Marketing Officer. They were asked to overview how their services
work from a journalist's perspective, as well as differentiate their
newswire from the competition.
that the approach used by Netspoke makes sense, and that a Business
Wire rep being asked for counsel would advise a similar strategy
rather than automatically trying to sell up to the highest level
that Business Wire works with the publications or individual reporters
to help them receive releases in the manner best suited for their
particular needs. Larger publications tend to get satellite feeds,
while others may receive releases via the Internet. BW also uses
a "press pass" system, allowing a reporter to access a
Web site or received e-mail with information filtered to their preferences.
The individual reporter can chose to see a headline, a few paragraphs,
or a full story.
From a reporter's
perspective, Becktold feels BW's differentiator is vertical targeting
and filtering of content to their preferences. He agreed that the
main competition is PR Newswire, and admits that if a publication
receives both PRN and BW, odds are that neither is treated any differently.
The two are often mixed together by industry, at the same speed.
He also claims that Business Wire has more wire and data feeds into
some of the financial publications than Internet Wire, and that
Internet Wire is short on satellite distribution needed for "full
Internet Wire is better suited for full disclosure because of real
time feeds into databases and financial media such as Yahoo and
CBS Market Watch. He does admit that IW is not in MSNBC, and reaches
Motley Fool but not the rest of AOL. He also claims that PR Newswire
does not reach CNN or Edgar.
uses the Internet and XML to feed releases to the media. It offers
journalists categorized "channels" that they can sign
up to receive, and the sender of a release selects which channels
will carry that release. Some publications have content management
systems, enabling reporters to get e-mails containing headlines
with hyperlinks to the full release. Daily papers get real-time
feeds of full stories.
IW's key differentiator for reporters is that it is subscription
driven, and that its e-mail feeds are simpler (headline, sub head,
link). He stressed that IW is also very similar to BW and PRN is
good ways, particularly in terms of reception. Using Yahoo finance
as an example, he said that there is no difference by "brand"
in how a release appears.
PRN and BW prices
are based on a 400 word release, with additional costs per 100 word
increment. There are different prices for different circuits and
newlines. IW does not price based on a word count. It does not offer
any limited distribution or regional circuits/newslines, but the
Netspoke release would receive IW's full distribution for $325.
Anything New Yet?
Experienced PR practitioners know wires are not the answer to getting
placements, but they have become a necessary evil, especially for
public companies that need to meet SEC full disclosure requirements.
While putting a release over a newswire will generally satisfy the
SEC by disclosing information to investors via financial databases
and news services, it won't deliver a nice fat pile of strategically-placed
asked, many journalists said newswire releases were not the best
way to reach them. Some admitted to being turned off by a release
that everyone else was getting. Some only looked at headlines without
opening the release, which might prove that the headline on a release
is far more important than many practitioners realize. A hyped headline
might mean an express trip to the trash file.
targeted pitch that reflects an understanding of the reporter's
beat and publication/show has a much better chance of success than
a press release sent to the masses via a newswire. Here are some
"Frankly, you get the same
brand of PR blather from all of the news wires. What differentiates
the various services is the way in which they present information.
I rarely read beyond the third paragraph of any release so what
I'm looking for when I choose to follow up on an announcement
is content. Does this release fit with any of the projects that
I'm doing right now. Or does it fit with my beats. What counts
is a clear jargon free headline, a to the point lead, and a couple
of supporting paragraphs that sells the release's point of view
Walker, Editor - Cyberwalker Media
"I don't care one bit what service a press release comes
from, I care what company issued it and how credible their communications
have been in the past. Some companies give informative, jargon-free
news releases, but I'm not going out on a limb here by saying
they are in the minority. The credibility of most press releases,
for me, ends once I get past the dateline. Business Wire, PRNewswire
and Internet Wire should stop squabbling amongst themselves like
a bunch of two-year-olds and start encouraging their clients to
put a bit more substance in their press releases."
Boyle - Fortune
"A release sent to our editor personally by a PR person they
have worked with in the past on a good story will always get noticed.
The wires are more for investors seeing you show up in AOL, Yahoo
and Factiva newsfeeds."
Holland - MarketingSherpa.com
"Speaking for myself, we do tend to gravitate toward releases
sent out by BusinessWire or PRNewswire, but only because those
are the most reputable and best known players who seem to post
the most releases. But who sends the release is really not as
important as the content of the release -- and the company issuing
it. We cover companies in Central Massachusetts, so if a release
is from a company within our geographic area, we always see it
and read it. Whether we do anything with it depends upon the news
bottom line for us, though, is the news and information, not how
it is delivered. Even a quick email about big news - such as a
merger, a multi-million dollar venture capital deal, a sale, etc
- will always get our attention. But releases are just a starting
point, which will always be followed by more reporting."
Bodor, Business Reporter - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Can you say "commodity?" So much for revolutionary tactics.
Page To a Friend
P.O. Box 994 - Westford, MA 01886 - 978-502-1055
Project-based marketing communications and