Newswire services are big business and are used by companies and PR agencies to spread news stories to journalists/bloggers and online. These services often make much of the size of their journalist databases and offer their ability to reach these journalists as a key selling point.
We regularly use newswires and believe that we understand benefits of some of the more common ones, but we wanted to get a journalist’s perspective, so we surveyed 80 UK journalists to get their perspective on press release distribution via newswires. We wanted to know which press release distribution services they actually found useful and what they used them for.
Busy reader’s summary
- Relevance is a major issue: many journalists (as one of our respondents put it) do not want to wade through newswires that are “…clogged with crap and/or investor relations type communications.” However, in some sectors, focused newswire services are clearly valuable (automotive seems to be one of these areas).
- You might get what you pay for: the newswires ranked the most valuable tended to be the most expensive ones
- Newswires are used for stories and reference material: monitoring industry trends and checking facts are popular uses in addition to news stories
Survey results: how journalists use newswires
Firstly, to clarify, when we say newswires we mean press release feeds or press release distribution services – these terms are often used interchangeably and, as one of our respondents pointed out, there’s a clear distinction between services such as Reuters, PA and Bloomberg (which carry original articles by journalists) and press release feeds.
We surveyed 80 journalists from our own contact lists across a variety of industries, but as we are a technology PR agency, we didn’t include industries that we don’t target, such as fashion and property. Our survey targets did include consumer and business tech, marketing, cleantech, ecommerce/retail and the automotive sectors and we think these results are applicable across the board.
Journalists from daily newspapers to well respected websites and freelancers took the time to help us to understand:
- How often do you use newswires?
- Which newswires are the most valuable?
- What do you use newswires for?
- What do you prefer newswires do for you?
We suspected that there would be neutral to negative feedback overall, but there were a few ‘forthright’ views expressed:
“Why do companies and PRs still target these useless muppets to waste journalists’ time bombarding them with irrelevant stories. Do your homework properly, build up your own media contacts list and deal with them directly.”
The issue of filtering came up several times as did bypassing a log in screen:
“They need better customisation options to provide more accurate content”
“Speed is critical to my job and not having to log in to a newswire service to view articles is essential to me.”
“I like BusinessWire as the links included in their emails go directly to the articles without having to log in first. I started out using PRNewswire but stopped as you have to log in each time you want to view the articles they email out.”
Onto the results of the survey.
How often do journalists use newswires?
- 37% of journalists use wires daily
- 30% of journalists use wires occasionally
- 21% of journalists never use wires
Which newswires are the most valuable?
We asked respondents to indicate which services they found most valuable in their work, from this list:
- Newswire Today
- PR Fire
- Press Association
- Press Dispensary
54% found that PR Newswire was the most valuable newswire followed by PA (38%), SourceWire (37%) and Businesswire (34%).
Although PA (Press Association) provides news stories written by journalists, it also allows companies and PR agencies to pay for release distribution.The PR Newswire positioning also reflects our unofficial ranking in our mini-review of paid press release distribution services.
Newswires specific to particular verticals were also mentioned by individual journalists NewsPress (automotive), Headline Auto (automotive), Gamespress and Technology4Media.
Based upon the comments we received, journalists indicated (perhaps unsurprisingly) that industry-specific services tend to be more valuable.
Here are some of the comments from journalists about how the services could be improved, so if anyone from wire services is reading, get your notepad out:
- “None of them are comprehensive so you end up with all the biggest bug bears with wires at various points filtering and targeting and ease-of-use.”
- “Wish they had better filtering. The categories are always too broad.”
- Newswires are great things but they never manage to target accurately enough – there are rarely stories that suit me.”
- “Important that EVERY news item is relevant and useful otherwise you end up wading through releases.”
What do you use newswires for?
78% use them for news stories, while 56% use wires for article and feature ideas and 56% for monitoring industry trends.
The mass news distribution offered by wires is a negative for some journalists, especially freelancers who benefit from exclusivity: “From the freelancer's point of view newswires are problematic because everyone has the same resources. My ability to earn a living depends on the exclusivity of the content I can offer, so it's difficult to see where they fit in except as a resource for general background.”
“I did once pitch a story from one, when I was much younger - the conversation went, ‘I've just found this story out’...’Thanks, so have I’, said the editor. Which kind of short circuits the whole thing.”
Fact checking seems to be a useful service. Specific journalist feedback includes:
“Writing news for a monthly print publication I simply use newswires as an easy way to find/verify information. They are often faster/easier than navigating corporate websites and press rooms. Links in wire releases to images and more information are particularly useful.”
“As a subeditor I mainly check wires when fact checking articles for the website. It’s not a huge necessity for me to check them for feature ideas. I suppose the most important factors for me when using wires are an easy search function and quick accessibility.
What do you prefer newswires do for you?
We asked if journalists would like press releases direct to their inbox, a link to a place to visit, or to be left alone by the wire services.
Most respondents wanted a place to visit to access releases and news, this preference was just ahead at 37% while 33% wanted targeting emails to their inbox (8% didn’t want anything from the wire services).
Digging into these results did show some differences:
- 60% of respondents who used newswires services to monitor industry trends, said they would prefer a place to visit and check news vs. 36% who wanted releases sent to their inbox
- Journalists working on national publications expressed a strong preference for having a place to visit (88%).
Should you use newswires to reach journalists?
Journalists do use wires, but it seems that they are used more for checking facts than picking up new stories. We believe that the best way to target a journalist is to follow them, understand what they write about, pitch a story to them exclusively and provide them with good content. While wires offer the ability to provide additional information the feedback from our respondents is that (on the whole) newswires need to find a way to help cut through the volume of less valuable releases.
Of course this post wouldn’t have been possible without the generous help of the journalists who took part in the survey – a big thank you to you all.
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