Media analysis: Making the most of showbiz wires

Britain's obsession with showbiz has fuelled a thriving celebrity magazine sector, while so-called 'serious' media have also become increasingly interested in celeb news.

As a result, newswire services that churn out entertainment stories are in great demand, as the imminent launch of Premier Showbiz – an offshoot of The Press Association's Entertainment wire – attests.

Premier Showbiz, which will be up and running from Monday, will provide snippets of news on music, film, TV, soaps, theatre, nightlife, comedy and fashion, events, awards and parties, as well as celebrities. Its stories will be accompanied by additional content (links to blogs, audio and video clips) that will be suitable for online media to reproduce.

The division has yet to confirm which news organisations will subscribe to its bulletins, but it claims to be in talks with a number of well-known websites.

Multimedia add-ons
Premier Showbiz will enter a market in which plenty of other wires covering showbiz, each with their own style and remit (see box), already compete.

PA Entertainment, for example, runs feature-length pieces and interviews, as well as news, and is always looking for ‘fun, quirky stories', says Premier Showbiz head Emily Shelley. ‘When Madonna launched her collection for H&M, our angle was to examine the publicity shots and ask if her hands had been airbrushed. That was the story everyone was talking about.'

Shelley says Premier Showbiz will be particularly interested in receiving additional online-friendly content with news releases. Reuters, meanwhile, carries entertainment news within its main newswire. Mike Collett-White, its senior correspondent for arts and entertainment EMEA, explains: ‘We avoid gossip. We are more likely to feature more regular news – film releases, for example.'

He adds: ‘The only time we might mention a rumour is if it has larger significance. So if a musician was
rumoured to have fallen out with his record label, we might cover it if it affected the record label's share price.'

WENN – with correspondents in London, Berlin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York, and whose subscribers include gossip mag Heat – features purely A-list stars, and only when they are doing something different. London-based senior newswire editor Ian Garland says: ‘If Britney Spears releases an album, for example, it's not a big deal because that's what she does. There needs to be a new, interesting angle.'

So what kind of relationship do entertainment PROs have with the wires?

Stuart Bell, head of PR at The Outside Organisation, uses newswires for ‘all-round big stories', such as when the agency's celebrity clients have children or announce marriages. But, he says: ‘It's often more effective to target the Daily Mirror's 3am Girls or The Sun's Bizarre column, which set the day's showbiz agenda. Whatever they have written about is what Radio 1's Newsbeat is likely to talk about. Then you'll get a call from the newswires anyway, asking you to verify the story.'

He argues: ‘Newspapers need exclusive content, but the newswires already have their clients on board, so they can afford to follow the agenda.'

Building relationships
Newswires can be useful for getting out information quickly, but PROs would not typically offer them exclusives, says Austin O'Brien Communications managing partner Sean O'Brien.

He says: ‘Putting news out on the wires can be a scattergun approach, unless it is earth-shattering or flagging up an event, such as a premiere, that the showbiz journalists are already going to. Journalists will often give stories less weight if they see them on the wires – a "page-lead" could end up being relegated to a news-in-brief slot. Showbiz news works better as an exclusive.'

Miki Watson, director at Golden Goose PR, agrees that ‘real gem' stories are best touted exclusively to a single journalist. But, she says: ‘Wires are brilliant for when you are hoping to get news-in-briefs in lots of places.'

But offering newswires periodic exclusives can help to build relationships, advises Taylor Herring MD James Herring: ‘PA journalists ask us if stories are exclusive, because breaking stories show their clients value for money.'

Gary Farrow, chairman of PR agency The Corporation, finds newswires useful, particularly PA, but says he is getting an increasing number of follow-up calls from across the world as a result of stories appearing on the BBC website. Outside's Bell says he has noticed a similar trend, with stories accessible via Google News having a growing pick-up rate.

But newswires do have advantages over websites. Heat deputy editor Charlotte Ward says: ‘Exclusivity is a big deal for us, but the wires are a useful way to keep our finger on the pulse. We don't have time to read all the gossip magazines and websites, but we can pick up bits of gossip from the wires, and we might be inspired to find a fresh angle or arrange an interview with someone mentioned.'Celebrity news seems unlikely to reach saturation point any time soon, and Premier Showbiz should give PROs even more success in targeting the increasingly powerful online news sites.

The consensus is that expanding the tight-knit arena of showbiz reporting with a few more journalists can only ensure that the media's thirst for gossip becomes even stronger.

 

Showbiz newswires: contacts for PROs

Premier Showbiz
Offers extra content such as blogs and video clips.
Has five reporters in London, as well as correspondents in LA and New York.

CONTACT: news@premiershowbiz.co.uk reaches the whole team, including Anita Singh and Sherna Noah.

World Entertainment News Network
Focuses on A-listers with international appeal.
Half of the coverage is picked up from international media, the rest is sourced in-house.

CONTACT: the senior newswire editor in London, Ian Garland (ian@wenn.com) or newsdesk@wenn.com. WENN also has offices in New York, LA and Las Vegas. The network is contactable 24 hours a day.

Reuters
Covers some showbiz within its main newswire. Would be unlikely to cover gossip, but announcements of celebrity engagements or film and album launches would be of interest.

CONTACT: senior correspondent (arts and entertainment) EMEA
Mike Collett-White. Email mike.
collett-white@reuters.com.

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