Direct web links, multimedia capabilities, instant feedback, and pinpointed targeting are taking newswires into the next generation.Don't be fooled by the name. While most prominent newswire companies still bear the term "wire" - like PR Newswire (PRN), Business Wire (BW), US Newswire, and Hispanic PR Wire (HPRW) - their capabilities extend far beyond transmitting text releases, as technology continues to advance. Photos, video and audio clips, and links to company background or stock information are just a few of the enhancements that are in their infancy, but on their way to becoming commonplace. "Right now it is an enhancement to the regular wire release, but over time there will be a complete migration to everything being done over the internet," predicts Tim Bahr, president of MultiVu, a broadcast company owned by PRN. PRN has capitalized on the web by providing clients with the opportunity to receive feedback directly from their distributed releases. The company's T-button (the "T" stands for transaction) is a tool that appears at the end of a news release, which allows readers to respond to what they just read. Launched in the first quarter of 2001, the addition provides an opportunity for clients to actually "sell" their products or corporate image. "A press release is written for one purpose, which is to sell something," explains John Williams, EVP of global markets for PRN. "Selling can come in many forms, but assuming you agree with the above notion, a wise course to follow in the current electronic environment is one that allows the reader to take such an action." The T-button is available in two versions: T-button News Meter and T-button Consumer. The former leads readers to a survey of 10 questions prepared by the client, asking for their response to the release when they click on the button. In partnership with InsightExpress, PRN is able to guarantee clients 100 responses to the surveys through the market research firm's consumer panels. Additionally, companies receive surveys back from all willing respondents to whom the release was went, creating a highly cost-effective way of getting feedback from target audiences. T-button Consumer links readers directly to the client's website, allowing them to purchase products right from news releases. Currently, releases about products from Bombay Company, HurryDate, and intensemedia.us are equipped with T-button Consumer. "People are already thinking about companies in an internet environment, and e-commerce is getting its second wind," notes Williams. "T-button aids clients in doing what they initially set out to do. It brings the buyer and seller closer together." BW's most recent technological advancement involves the beta testing of its News Express delivery system, a proprietary internet platform that delivers multimedia content directly to receivers located in newsrooms. The new method is based on NewsML, an XML-based technology that enables reporters to access text, video, pictures, and graphics simultaneously. It also delivers news in multiple language versions. Previously, the only option for accessing multimedia content from BW was via its Smart News Release. The tool embeds multimedia elements into an HTML news release, but requires users to manually open each piece of content, which demands additional time. "The Smart Release is a pull product, while News Express is a push product," explains Steve Messick, the SVP of technology who led development of the product. "Opposed to having to go and retrieve content, News Express transmits all multimedia elements directly to the receivers." As the content of releases continues to increase and improve, so does the reach of distribution. Newswires are paying increasing attention to their targeting services, which allow clients to pinpoint relevant audiences, rather than sending news out to everyone and spending unnecessary funds. "Being able to reach audiences beyond newsrooms has allowed us to deliver information without having to rely on the media," says Bahr. Manny Ruiz, president of HPRW, agrees that having the ability to access audiences beyond the media is an important advancement. HPRW, which does not proactively incorporate multimedia components in its press releases due to the lack of demand among Hispanic media outlets, reaches out to opinion leaders as aggressively as it does reporters. In upcoming weeks, the newswire will forge a partnership with Hispanic Business Magazine. This grants HPRW permission to tap into the publication's database of CEOs, which will prove useful for clients looking to send information on corporate seminars. Black PR Wire (BPRW), targeted by nature in the same way as HPRW, has a media database of over 1,600 African-American newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations in the US and the Caribbean. It also has distribution channels that disseminate news to over 800 community organizations and black leaders, as well as historical black colleges and universities. Clients are able to narrow their target audience even further by geographic location through BPRW's regional market circuits: National, US Regional, and the Caribbean. Similarly, US Newswire's services - dedicated to distributing news for public-interest groups that want to get coverage about their cause, rather than their earnings - are targeted to begin with, but also broken down further through the company's concentrated distribution packages. Its Capitol Hill package, for example, encapsulates audiences who are involved or interested in issues having to do with legislation. The Op-Ed channel accepts op-ed pieces, and distributes them to appropriate editors. The Gay and Lesbian and Political Talk Shows circuits are among the newswire's other targeted channels. "Targeting presents a much more cost-effective option in many cases," reports Brian Taylor, director of sales and marketing for US Newswire. He points to the example of his company's Foreign Press package, which targets press located in the US. "Rather than spending the money to send news to outlets overseas, clients can just send them in the US, where there is actually more foreign press than anywhere else." ----- Technological advances T-button Available in two versions, News Meter and Consumer, the T-button appears at the end of news releases, and gives readers the option of responding via survey or by purchasing the company's products. PR Newswire's most recent enhancement takes advantage of the internet by granting clients immediate feedback from the information they disseminate. News Express News Express is a proprietary internet platform that delivers multimedia content directly to receivers located in newsrooms. The new method, just beta tested by Business Wire, is based on NewsML, an XML-based technology that enables reporters to simultaneously access text, video, photographs, and graphics.