Despite the growing use of social networks and interactive Web sites to spread information, news distribution companies are continuing to invest in products and services that diversify their businesses and address the changing needs of clients.
Executives at PR Newswire, Business Wire, and Marketwire cite monitoring and measurement, global reach, mobile, video, and multimedia services as key growth areas for the industry. Yet challenges remain as these companies look for ways to address the budget concerns of PR agencies and succeed in an increasingly competitive field.
In January, Thomas Reuters launched Thomson One PR, a PR services platform that offers press release distribution, message analytics, and media monitoring.
Paolina Milana, EVP of marketing, media, and editorial operations for Marketwire, says the increase in competition is creating more opportunities, even for the established players in the news distribution sector.
Marketwire is looking at the role tailored communications, microtargeting, and mobility play in current PR programs for its clients.
“It's presenting challenges for us, yes," she notes, "but it's really presenting us with more opportunities to take it further.”
And, in the current competitive environment, these companies are investing in new technologies and staff to develop tools that provide clients, including PR agencies, with the most effective reach possible. For example, PR Newswire is focused on growing its video and multimedia offerings.
“It resonates that much more when they're able to tell their story in something as rich as a video, as opposed to text.” says Scott Mozarsky, EVP and chief strategy and development officer at PR Newswire.
For agencies, many of whom are deeply rooted in online programs with their clients, the development of new features keeps news distribution companies a part of the foundation of an overall PR program.
“We're beyond the days of the straight press release,” says Jennifer Gottlieb, MD of WCG's New York office. “How do you ensure that what's going out on the wire meets the needs of all of the stakeholders, both online and offline? That's still the core business that we work with them on.”
WCG works primarily with healthcare clients, including biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The need to release news and information through news distribution services is vital for these industries, she notes.
“They're very integral to the PR programs,” says Gottlieb. “But, more importantly for the very important information that has to be shared in a timely matter, it's still the core vehicle for that kind of breaking information.”
The wires also serve as core vehicles for news like global announcements and studies, although firms are starting to evaluate the news distribution strategies for specific clients, says Jennifer Moore, group manager of the global strategic media group at Weber Shandwick.
Working with MAC AIDS Fund for the Viva Glam launch in February, Weber used a comprehensive media relations and online word-of-mouth program to raise awareness about the fund's new spokeswomen, Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper.
It issued a media alert on the wires with select findings of a study, instructing readers to visit MAC Aids Fund's Web site to download the executive summary. Two years ago, Moore says, the firm would have used the wires to issue a full press release of the survey results and executive summary.
“If you say less … then you can drive people who are interested back to your Web site, back to where you have your content, and get all of their information that way,” says Moore. “We're still using newswires, but it definitely varies per client.”
As PR professionals take a more influential role within organizations, news distribution companies view that as an opportunity for their businesses and services, says Tom Becktold SVP of marketing for BW. This is especially true in the areas of global news and social media, he adds.
“We're in such a state of flux with the role of public relations and its growing in influence in companies and organizations,” he says. “There's a tremendous amount of opportunity based on what's happening with media landscapes and how people consume news.”