Greentarget: Seven in 10 journalists spend less than a minute reading press releases

Most journalists spend less than 60 seconds reading new press releases, and 13% said they never use quotes found in them.

A sample press release from Business Wire
A sample press release from Business Wire

NEW YORK: Most journalists spend less than a minute reading press releases, according to a study by communications firm Greentarget.

The report also found that reporters and editors want pared-down content that contains hard facts. The 2014 Disrupting the Press Release study was based on a survey of 100 US journalists and a series of focus groups with reporters and editors in Chicago and New York.

With journalists being bombarded with press releases – 45% of respondents said they get 50 or more a week while 21% get at least 100 – they spend little time reading them, according to the survey.

The study found that 69% of journalists spent less than 60 seconds reading a press release. One in three look at releases for less than five minutes.

In terms of content, 28% of respondents said they find contact information the most useful aspect of a press release, while 68% said they use company statements to find out the who, what, when, where, and how of a story they are writing.

Just more than half of journalists (53%) said they would find it helpful for information to be presented in bullet-point format. Multiple respondents cited press releases issued by police departments as good examples of easy-to-read and concise content, according to the study.

"Journalists are increasingly pressed for time and want us to get to the point quicker," said Aaron Schoenherr, founding partner of Greentarget. "We need to be more flexible with our style, and instead of matching our content to the way journalists write, we need to be focused on how we get them the information they need in as efficient manner as possible."

He said the industry may feel "uncomfortable" deviating from the standard Associated Press style it uses to write releases.

Almost one-third of respondents (31%) said they rarely use quotations from press releases, while 13% said they never use them at all. The survey showed that 28% of journalists regularly use quotes from releases, and the same number only uses them when on deadline.

Journalists cited unnatural language and a lack of substance as the main complaints they have about press-release quotations. Half complained their language does not sound natural, while one-third (34%) said quotations are not substantive enough.

Last year, Amazon became one of the first brands to experiment with distributing a press release via Twitter. Less than half of respondents (46%) said they would be open to receiving a statement via the microblogging service.

Schoenherr added that the PR industry does not spend enough time listening to journalists’ needs, and it should find a "middle ground" between them and clients. 

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