Thanks to the expansive reach of the Internet, companies and agencies are harvesting news clips off the Web, leaving a question mark over the future of traditional clipping services. Even senior managers are jumping online to read about their companies before their PR agencies or corporate departments can gather and bundle electronic clips.
Thanks to the expansive reach of the Internet, companies and
agencies are harvesting news clips off the Web, leaving a question mark
over the future of traditional clipping services. Even senior managers
are jumping online to read about their companies before their PR
agencies or corporate departments can gather and bundle electronic
’We’re finding our executives are increasingly turning to the Internet
for moment-by-moment news so it’s very common to see Yahoo! up on
somebody’s monitor,’ says Michele Somsak, manager of media and financial
communications at Hewlett-Packard. ’In fact, company lawyers often alert
me to things online before I’ve seen them myself.
But this isn’t always a positive for PR pros. ’One thing that drives PR
teams crazy, whether corporate or agency, is executives seeing company
news on their own, as opposed to PR being proactive,’ says Lou Hoffman,
head of the Hoffman Agency in San Jose.
Online access plays directly into the ’mind-set of clients,’ which today
is ’built around immediacy,’ says Mark Williams, president of
Harpell-Martin’s PR division. ’The fact you have to wait for some time
before you can access clips from the paper-based services puts them at a
real competitive disadvantage. Search engines have become the de facto
So much so that Katie Paine, president of Delahaye MediaLink in
Portsmouth, NH, is convinced most standard clipping services are going
to be out of business in five years: ’because I don’t think they’re
going to matter.’
The big clipping operations - Burrelle’s, Luce Clippings, Bacon’s
Information - in addition to Allen’s, Northern Lights and other regional
services, do provide online clipping but Paine believes it’s too little,
Despite Paine’s dire prediction, Michael Buxbaum, director of business
development at Bacon’s in Chicago, argues there’s still a place for
clipping services like his in a wired world. ’When you try to pull
something up on the Internet, whether through an automated Web clipping
service or just a simple search, you end up pulling up a pile of other
stuff with it,’ he says.
That’s why there’ll always be a need for ’human intervention’ to provide
’clean’ data. The other issue, says Buxbaum, ’is that there’s only about
20% of the content from the 20,000-plus publications out there that’s in
electronic format, and they only carry original content.’
Web searches don’t tell PR clients how a story was positioned in a print
publication, whether it ran on the front page of a newspaper’s business
section or was picked up in syndication. Search engine technology has
broadened the field, he acknowledges, but hard-copy clipping services
’have the expertise. We’ve got 500 people reading through all the
hard-copy newspapers.’ Meanwhile, new technologies will allow
traditional services to be more exact by automatically scanning every
page of all 20,000 publications in the market.’ By next year, he says,
Bacon’s will be providing such edited Web-clipping services.
PR clients increasingly are asking for online clippings so Luce,
third-largest of the traditional services, responded by launching an
But Richard Weiner, a PR consultant to Luce, stresses that online clips
don’t offer ’the headlines, photos, graphics, the way the story looks on
the page. You don’t get the feeling of the newsprint - which makes it
more important for clients to have two clipping services, one to handle
online, the other the thousands of print versions,’ he adds.
No big deal, shrugs Cindy Landers, PR director for Jiffy Lube in
Houston, who says that Dow Jones Interactive CustomClips ’works
wonderfully’ for her. Senior execs want to see news pertinent to the
company ’fresh and a little at a time. They’re not interested in seeing
them three months old in a stack of paperwork that’s four inches
Best of all, Landers and her staff don’t have to go online to pull down
clips. The Dow Jones service feeds into her e-mail box and gives her the
option of accessing an entire story or reading just the headline and
lead paragraph. Each clip comes with a word-count header and indicates
whether there’s a photo with the story.
The service allows Landers to have five staffers monitoring up to 25
different subject folders for references that ’align with what the
company is currently doing. You can tell it not to notify you when
something hits a particular electronic folder,’ she says.
Such tailored and targeted customized services clearly play a major role
in the future for clippings, revolutionizing the speed at which execs
can learn about their coverage. But it also means that for PR pros, the
whole process of defining results will get harder.
’Online editions change every few minutes,’ Weiner points out, ’so now
the client say somebody just called and said they saw the company’s name
in a story on their computer, and asked, ’Why haven’t you sent that to
me?’’ The world of clips is changing fast.
ONLINE CLIPPING SERVICES
Services, Livingston, NJ
Dow Jones Interactive
CustomClips, Princeton, NJ
Tel: 800-369-7466 Fax: 609-520-4775
Luce Online, Scottsdale, AZ
Allen’s Press Clipping
Bureau, San Francisco
(no Web address).