THERE’s a lot of talk these days from the big wire services about “social media news releases.” However, almost all of it is meaningless because people are mostly trying to reinvent something that is actually obsolete.
Newswires have latched onto social media releases because they’re looking for ways to stay relevant in a world that, with increasing use of RSS, is cutting them out of the information dissemination loop. PR firms, meanwhile, are looking for ways to make money on the buzz around social media, and “social media releases” seem like a sexy way to do it.
In this article, I focus on the kind of social media releases that the big wire services are “offering.” To understand what these look like, let’s start with a case study involving PR Newswire.
Earlier this week, PR Newswire announced that it is including links in news releases posted on its website to Technorati, a blog directory and search engine. When people follow the links to Technorati, they will see which blogs are linking to the news release posted on PR Newswire’s website. They can then go read those blog entries if they want.
PR Newswire has been big on this social media thing. Back in October, they announced a deal with Whitley Media where they would distribute social media news releases cranked out using an online social media news release builder. And before that, PR Newswire added links to Del.icio.us in news releases posted on its public website. Del.icio.us is a bookmark sharing site owned by Yahoo!
If you look at releases on PR Newswire’s website today, you’ll see that news releases also have links to Digg, which is a site where members add links to content on the Web and others vote on or “digg” them.
Now PR Newswire isn’t the only wire service doing these types of things. Business Wire does them, too, and there are some smaller press release services doing similar things.
Everyone, it seems, is trying to reinvent the newswire release by making it “social.”
Driving traffic away from your site
But why? Why does anyone paying exorbitant fees for a news release distribution via one of the big PR wires need that? Why do they want to send people from their news release on PR Newswire’s website to Technorati, Del.icio.us or Digg?
The PR firms and the PR wires will tell you it’s because you want to attract interest from the communities using such sites. And, yes, you do.
But what they don’t tell you is that you don’t need newswire services to do that. You can do it on your own website or even a blog (check out the save/share it link at the end of this post).
In fact, by using a newswire to distribute a social media news release you will likely drive traffic away from your website.
Instead of going to your website, people are encouraged to go to Technorati and other sites. When someone “diggs” a news release on PR Newswire’s site, all the traffic flows directly to PR Newswire’s site, not to yours. The same thing happens with Del.icio.us.
In other words, allowing wire services and PR firms to include links to social media sites, comments or trackbacks in your distributed releases results in less traffic for your website and more for them.
News releases should be 25 words and a link
Actually, when you think about it, almost all news releases distributed by wire services today pull traffic away from your company’s website to other websites. And you’re paying for the pleasure.
In the days before we had websites, we had to include all the information we could in the release without making it too long. But we don’t have to do that any more because we have websites where we can post the details.
Today, we don’t have to give people all the information in the release itself. The most important information in your releases today is that mighty invention that makes all of this Web stuff work — the hyperlink.
The single purpose of news releases today should be to get people to link to the details on our websites. To do that, we only need to convince them that it’s worth their while to click the link.
Once people are on your website, that’s when you want them to click on a Digg, Del.icio.us or Technorati link. That’s where you want them to comment, trackback and subscribe to feeds. That’s how you truly engage and join “the conversation.”
News release writers today can learn a lot from the Digg front page. That’s where you will see effective attention grabbers that prompt people to click on links. We’re talking about a linked headline and a 25-word summary.
That’s what a newswire news release should look like in 2007.
Works for everyone except the PR wires
Good luck trying to get your 25-word release and link distributed by any of the main wire services. They won’t do it. There’s not enough money in it for all of them. They typically charge by the word, so if everyone started sending out 25-word releases, they’d lose most of their revenue.
Furthermore, if people are coming to your website and then subscribing to your feed, then you’ve started establishing an alternative newswire of your own. Pretty soon, you’d start to realize that you’re getting very little additional value from paying a newswire service to distribute what people are getting from you directly.
Do 25-word releases with links make sense for the audience? Yes.
Does it make sense for the company issuing the release? Yes.
Does it make sense for PR firms? It could, if they also get to write the detailed material on your website.
Does it makes sense for journalists? I don’t see why not. Most of them can click, can’t they?
So who exactly doesn’t it work for?