In 1997 technology journalist Daryl Willcox came across an online service that connected academics with one another, and it struck him that he could set up a very similar system to connect PR professionals and journalists. Later that year he launched SourceWire, a service that allowed technology journalists to request information or other assistance on articles or broadcast programmes. For their part, PROs tapped into a stream of enquiries that could lead to media coverage.
A year later he rolled it out to other sectors as Response Source, and an industry was born. Twelve years on it is an increasingly crowded industry. In June 2010 the latest online resource for journalists and PR professionals, mediawasp, launched, promising to ‘connect journalists and PROs with each other more effectively than ever before’. It joins ResponseSource, Gorkana and News4Media, alongside wider online resources such as LinkedIn and Twitter, all of which promise to bring journalists and PROs together for the benefit of all.
With the recent news that Vocus has acquired Help a Reporter Out, an American-based service that is free to journalists and PROs, it looks likely this market will be shaken up still further in the next few months. The service runs a daily ad-funded e-newsletter that in the States boasts a 50 per cent open rate.
However the market changes, and whether services are paid for by advertisers or subscribers, these sites look set to become ever more important. As Matthew Fox, PR and marketing director at Pure Holiday Homes, says: ‘I am from the old school of PR where it was all about building relationships with journalists. Now no individual PRO or agency can survive without signing up to these portals.’
So these sites have changed the skills required of PROs. It is essential for PR professionals to understand how each site operates, how the sites differ from each other, and how they can get the most out of them.