Friday, November 26, 2010

News Releases - The New "Online Advertising"

Note - this blog has been edited for clarity based on reader comments - thanks, Andy!

I've been reviewing David Meerman Scott's excellent 2nd (2010) edition of his seminal "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" and was impressed by his view that while "press releases" should continue to target news media gatekeepers (editors, producers, reporters), "news releases" should be targeted to information (or product/service) users, rather than to the traditional news media gatekeepers. He makes that distinction in naming, and I think it's helpful in understanding, how the role of these releases has changed.

This role--change is at the heart of what I call "PR-Marketing 2.0," and in this (as in most marketing and PR concepts), David and I are of one accord. For more than five years now, I've been encouraging clients to embrace the use of "news releases" as a way of getting "the word" posted on the many news websites - those that (under contract) republish releases placed via BusinessWire and other wire services - sites such as Yahoo, Marketwire and a host of other news (and news release) aggregators.

Some media will occasionally pick up a well-written wire-distributed press release - one which contains real news, and turn it into an article, or use it to justify an interview-based feature. However, I find I get more placement success by emailing specific editors, reporters and producers directly - or by picking up the phone and pitching them. But wire-distributed news releases do get picked up and used by those online news aggregators, and when people key-word search, they will find those news releases.

After reading David's insights, I had one of my own. News releases placed over one of the major wire services - the ones that, via contract, feed content to the big online news sites - are nothing short of a new online advertising medium. Without quite intending to, these wire services have become a fee-based way of getting your news out, through the Internet, to news-reporting places where potential clients or customers can find that news.

Here's what I mean. In traditional advertising, your ad-buy guarantees that your message (in print or broadcast form) is placed in a certain medium, generally at a specific time and often in a specific location. However, in traditional PR, you were not buying a message placement - instead, you were buying a means of reaching out to a news media gatekeeper, asking for coverage and using the news value of the release as justification. If you used a wire service such as BusinessWire, you were increasing your odds of being picked up, but you were not buying placement.

Today, when you place a release on BusinessWire or one of it's competitors, you are buying the placement of your message - not only in a direct feed to reporters and editors, but also in a direct feed to Yahoo Business and Marketwire and all the other sites that contractually place releases provided by the wire service. You are, in essence, buying an ad on Yahoo and all the other sites.

For as little as $300 on BusinessWire (and less on some of their competitors), you get a very controlled, up-to-400-word message placed in some very prestigious and well-traveled websites. So if you're following David's recommendation to put out news releases on the Web to reach consumers directly, then - when you use one of the wire services - you are, in essence, buying a guaranteed placement in specified locations and at specified times. In short, advertising. A different kind of advertising (more like an advertorial than a traditional print ad), but still an ad.

When you compare the relatively nominal costs of a BusinessWire placement to the relatively astronomical costs of an advertisement in any mainstream medium, this becomes a huge bargain. One ad on an ABC/CNN/Fox News program costs thousands of dollars and is here and gone in 15 or 30 seconds. But, a much longer message placed via BusinessWire lives on up to 150 news-aggregator websites for 30 days, 90 days or an infinite number of days, there to be found by any Google, Bing or other key-word search.

In the world of PR-Marketing 2.0, a traditional low-cost PR distribution tactic has evolved into an incredibly cost-effective targeted-consumer advertising tactic, making use of the way that press release distribution wire services ensure that their clients generate coverage through their news-feed contracts with Yahoo and hundreds of other other online news aggregators.

I'll be interested in your take on this new "advertising medium" and how it can be made to work for you, your clients or your employers. Thanks.

Ned Barnett - ned (at) barnettmarcom (dot) com -

Thanks for the inspiration: David Meerman Scott -