Call it the dark lining around the silver cloud.
Call it the dark lining around the silver cloud.
The Internet has spawned online journalism, creating new opportunities
for PR pros to disseminate news, but at the same time putting incredible
pressure on the resources of many PR firms. Agencies are now bombarded
with an increasing number of cyber-reporters and editors requesting
content and comment, which they must sort through on the fly to
determine which journalists are the best outlets for their clients’
’One of the things that all of us in the industry are struggling with
right now is being able to identify good reporters who are separate and
distinct from the offline world,’ says Colburn Aker, president of the
Washington, DC-based Aker Partners. ’There are thousands of media sites
that just take copy and post it, while others have their own distinct
staff and are looking for separate and distinct content.’
Indeed, the PR gatekeeping function - the need to continually update and
evaluate the world of cyber-journalists - becomes even more
Compounding the issue is that one often can’t judge a site at first
Tuesday Uhland, VP at Access Communications, San Francisco, points out
that in some cases a niche site being run by a 13-year-old out of his
bedroom could have more credibility with a key consumer base than a more
established online organization. ’You really have to do some good
qualification there,’ she says.
Luckily for PR pros, a number of services are being created to help with
the task of finding the right cyber-journalists. Cambridge, MA-based
MediaMap, for one, has moved aggressively to establish a database that
provides detailed information on more than 300 top media sites. The
dollars 1,995 annual service is updated weekly.
MediaMap recently augmented its online journalism efforts by launching a
free weekly e-newsletter, webPR, that provides public relations tips and
tricks, a list of top five most desired sites and detailed profiles of
new and established online news outlets.
Chicago-based Bacon’s Information is set to release its first Internet
Media Directory in February. The volume will feature information on
about 5,000 online news outlets, all but 400 of which are tied to
traditional print or broadcast outlets. The directory will include some
additional information, including the number of hits sites receive
monthly, when those figures can be verified.
Ruth McFarland, editor and publisher at Bacon’s, says the Internet
directory had to be created from ’scratch,’ adding the difficulty the
company faced was in determining whether online-only news organizations
were not only credible but also had a consistent presence. ’A lot of
sites were up one day and then were not there the next time we looked
for them, so we couldn’t include them,’ she says.
Bacon’s also plans to provide PR firms with information on what method
to use to contact reporters. While virtually every journalist, both on
and offline now has e-mail, some do not want to receive information
Even journalists in the same news organization may have different
preferences. ’A lot of them call us and say they don’t want their e-mail
address listed,’ McFarland explains. ’They say they consider their PC
their personal property and they resent having unsolicited releases sent
Burrelle’s Information Services, another long-established media
directory company, is set to launch its first online media directory
aimed at the cyber-journalist sometime this year. The Livingston,
NJ-based company’s traditional media directories do list some
online-only news organizations such as Salon, Slate and CNET.
The Internet enables PR firms and their clients to shift from strictly
pushing content to journalists to using technology to lure qualified
cyber-journalists to sites with news and other information. One outlet
in this category is Newstream.com, which bills itself as the first
multimedia Internet news portal.
Newstream, a New York-based collaboration between Medialink and Business
Wire, formally launched several weeks ago, but had already accumulated a
list of over 5,300 online journalists since its soft rollout last
Much like more traditional PR-based wires, Newstream’s business model is
fee-based, with clients and agencies paying to post content (including
audio, video and slides), which the company then distributes to as wide
an audience as possible.
PR Newswire began its pursuit of online journalists with the October
1997 debut of PRNmedia.com. Since the launch, some 16,600 journalists
have signed on to access a variety of streaming and archived multi-media
PR Newswire has inked a number of deals aimed at increasing its online
presence. They include: last year’s deal with NBC to archive multi-media
offerings on the Video Seeker service; the December acquisition of
UK-based online hi-tech and health care news service NEWSdesk
International, which it plans to expand; and the upcoming, yet to be
announced, partnership with online audio/video directory
In addition to the legitimacy and permanence of web sites, PR pros face
other issues in dealing with online journalists. For example, they are
challenged by maintaining relationships with key reporters as they
migrate from broadcast and print into the online news world. To maintain
those relationships, many experts caution against relying too much on
new technologies at the expense of traditional PR tools such as phone
calls and regular face-to-face contact when courting the online
DOS AND DON’TS
1 Stress to your clients the growing importance of Internet sites in
getting a message out.
2 Make efforts to follow key journalists as they migrate to online
publications and outlets.
3 Take advantage of the Internet by including video, audio, PowerPoint
and hyperlinks in press releases aimed at cyber-journalists.
1 Judge a site on first glance. Often, sites that appear minor may hold
sway over a key demographic your client is trying to reach.
2 Become overly reliant on new technology to deliver your message and
maintain relationships. In many cases, e-mail should be an augment and
should not replace a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
3 Dismiss the Internet as only being for campaigns tied to dot-com or
high-tech products and companies. It’s a mass market medium.