An illustrated history of newswires

Posted on: 2012-10-26 in Resources   |   Tagged: businesswire newswire newswires pa newswire pr newswire realwire sourcewire

We don’t have illustrations but the copy is so beautiful it will help you paint a mental picture. By @JamiesonDavid

Newswires pre-date PR and in their purest form offer an established and respected method of news dissemination. The oldest, Paris’ Agence France-Presse (1835), is still among the three largest in the world, with the other two being Associated Press and Reuters. These are traditional newswires, which Wikipedia defines as organisations of journalists established to supply news reports to news organisations.

The first significant revolution to sweep the newswire business was short-wave wireless in the 1930s. It slashed overheads and improved communication – undoubtedly a positive innovation in terms of improving the spread of news at a globally turbulent time.

Fast forward 70-odd years and the internet and email have had a similar effect on the distribution and consumption of news. However, the internet has lowered barriers to entry, so now anyone and everyone can pester journalists and media outlets with 'news'. Now, newswire services that specialise in distributing media releases are queuing up to take your cash and launch your news into the black-hole of the internet never to be seen again.

Media release newswires are a mutation of the traditional model and have the potential to ruin the reputation of PR as a discipline and damage email communication with the media forever. Whether they work or not depends on various factors. Chief among these is how strong your brand is – and I mean Apple, Aston Martin, Coca Cola or Mo Farah strong - combined with how strong your news is. You are not the best judge of this second part, I’m afraid, and neither is your account manager at the Extra-Extra-Read-All-About-It Newswire. Yes, sure, at the touch of a button she can send yours news to thousands of ‘carefully screened and selected’ tier one contacts, but remember she gets paid whether anyone reads your news or not.

Let’s stop here and imagine how many emails a journalist at even a moderately successful media outlet receives. Hundreds - all day, every day. I’ve seen it myself and it’s relentless. Adding to the mess are newswires happily pumping out such prodigious levels of untargeted rubbish (if you’ve got the money, they’ve got the time – it’s that simple) that you’ll be lucky if your subject title is even read. Against odds like that, the first three words of your heading had better be good. No, they’d better be spectacular.

Here’s a real-life example taken from Sunday. Log onto one of the leading press release newswire services and on the home page we have this piece of breaking-news: UK-based ski holiday operator has a sale on. I shudder at the thought of how much that has cost – they’ve got a sale on, so what! What did they think was going to happen? Or, more pertinently, what did the newswire promise them would happen? Write a short release, send it to us and then hire some extra staff in the call centre to manage the enquiries you are soon-to-be inundated with? As if.

Now, in a parallel universe Company X has hired a professional and knowledgeable communications firm staffed by experienced media professionals. These cats have their finger on the pulse – not only do they know that the media, particularly online, are crying out for original content, they also know that there’s a fair amount of good sentiment in the air around skiing at the moment. (The London Ski Show is at the end of the month, the Freeze Festival at Battersea Power Station is just days away and on top of that the European season is about to kick-off.) So, armed with this knowledge and telephone skills that could charm the socks off a harassed editor, they set about tapping into this sentiment in the ski and snowboard community and reach out to key media outlets and bloggers. Using their experience of what works and what doesn’t, they build a more compelling story than “Company X has a sale on” line, a story strategically tailored to build brand awareness and drive traffic to Company X’s site where the sale, of course, has top billing.

Off the top of my head, let’s start by pitching guest blogs on up-and-coming ski locations, slope fashion, season previews/reviews, what’s on in town, nightlife reviews or options for family friendly ski holidays to sites such as the Telegraph’s Travel Snow & Ski site, or Ski Club Great Britain - or all three – with the aim of securing Tier 1 coverage and links back to the client’s site. Exposure on these sites will carry great weight for search rankings, will reach readers who are squarely in Company X’s target market and would never, ever be caught dead reading a newswire. With a solid stream of published content, Company X can also start to build its social media following and its own blog activity and really start maximising its communications potential.

This may all cost marginally more than a newswire release in both time and money but in terms of value and results they simply are not in the same league and never will be. Just ask any of these lot...

Browse our other posts in our value of newswires series.

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About this blog


The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by SaaS marketing expert Heather Baker, founder of B2B PR consultancy TopLine Communications, and editor of the B2B Guide to Social Media and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact her via email: [email protected]


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