IN AN unconventional move that blurs the lines between journalism and public relations, Reuters is now distributing press releases of its parent company’s corporate clients in its editorial feed to Yahoo! Finance, the world’s most popular investing website.
The development appears to run counter to the Reuters Trust Principles, a set of standards designed to safeguard the respected global newswire’s editorial independence from Thomson Reuters Corporation’s (NYSE:TRI) commercial interests.
One of the five principles states: “That Thomson Reuters shall supply unbiased and reliable news services to newspapers, news agencies, broadcasters and other media subscribers and to businesses governments, institutions, individuals and others with whom Thomson Reuters has or may have contracts.”
However, the Reuters news feed delivered to Yahoo! Finance now includes complete, unedited press releases from Thomson Reuters’ corporate clients in amongst Reuters news articles. Press releases of non-Thomson Reuters clients are not being distributed to Yahoo! Finance. The press release headlines are virtually indistinguishable from the newswire’s editorial content.
The inclusion of press releases in Reuters’ news feed to Yahoo! is likely intended to address a distribution gap in Thomson Reuters’ corporate press release distribution service.
Thomson Reuters acquired European PR wire service Hugin in September 2009 and made the service available free of charge to thousands of its US corporate clients in June under the brand name “Thomson Reuters ONE.” However, while the press release service offered distribution to about 200 US outlets, it lacked distribution to Yahoo! Finance, which is a critical outlet for financial disclosure releases.
To address the gap, Thomson Reuters partnered with Market Wire to get its corporate clients’ news releases to the popular investment portal and other destinations.
Now it appears that Thomson Reuters has dropped Market Wire and begun piggybacking on Reuters’ editorial feed to get client news releases to the important Yahoo! Finance audience. The change appears to have been made earlier this month.
At 10:02 am yesterday, for instance, Reuters distributed a news release from Nokia Corp. (NYSE:NOK) to Yahoo! Finance announcing a delay in Nokia Siemens Networks’ agreed $1.2 billion acquisition of Motorola’s telecom network equipment arm. Nokia is a client of Thomson Reuters’ corporate services division and runs its investor relations website on Thomson Reuters technology.
About 40 minutes later, Reuters distributed a report to Yahoo! about the delayed deal that was written by its European technology correspondent Tarmo Virki. It was followed about two hours later by an expanded report from Virki.
Looking at the headlines of all three reports it is impossible to tell that one of them is actually a press release from Nokia. Only when users click on the headline and visit Reuters’ website are they informed in gray text that “Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.”
The inclusion of news releases in Reuters’ feed to Yahoo! Finance is also likely to create regulatory headaches for Thomson Reuters’ European corporate clients whose securities are not registered with the SEC and cannot be promoted or sold in the US.
For example, earlier this morning Reuters distributed a news release to Yahoo! Finance announcing a bond issue by Finland’s Huhtamäki Oyj. However, the release states prominently at the top that it is “not to be released or distributed in Australia, Canada, Japan or the United States.”