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Untangling the Newswires

1024 576 Tom McMillan

Commercial newswires distribute news releases on behalf of businesses and organizations for a fee. In this article we explore how marketing and communication professionals can get the most out of their newswire provider while ensuring that their content is syndicated across their web, email and social media channels.

This is the second article in a four part series that explores newswires, news releases, and media management.

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Expectation Management

No newswire on earth can process your eight page release in five minutes. So to improve your communication outcomes, let’s talk about some guiding principles when it comes to engaging newswires:

  • Give your newswire 20 minutes per page to process your release;
  • If you schedule your release for the top of the hour expect some delays; and
  • Do not schedule your release for distribution until you are sure it should be sent across the wire. Many newswires make use of secondary distribution channels that can’t reliably be stopped without more than ten minutes of warning.

Selecting the Right Network

Commercial newswires offer a variety of networks that target different audiences. Instead of using their all-points network, the most widely distributed and most expensive way to disclose your news, consider using your newswire’s niche networks. Niche networks narrow your distribution to the relevant audience, cost less and increase your impact.

Trade Publications

For business-to-business marketing, trade publication networks offer a powerful way to target a specific industry. Ask your newswire for a list of the trade publication networks they curate.

Financial and Business Beat

Public companies are obliged to distribute material information through an approved financial newswire. (Learn more in our news release article, part 3 of this series) These networks hit business news desks, financial institutions, and a multitude of news aggregators such as Bloomberg, Yahoo, Google Finance, etc. Financial newswires offer the most effective and least expensive means of distributing your company’s material disclosures.

Other Beats

Just like the sections of a newspaper, most news outlets have separate news desks and contact information for each beat (sports, politics, local, national, life, arts/entertainment, opinion, etc.). When targeting a national or international audience, most newswires have a network that will help you target the right beat.

Which Newswire is Right for Me?

To select the right newswire you must answer the following question:

Who will reliably reach the audience I need to target?

You need a newswire that has the right networks and reliable service levels.

The Right Networks

While newswires have various networks, as discussed above, there is significant variation between the networks offered by each newswire. Ask the newswire to outline the points of distribution for each of its networks and evaluate this based on your audience.

Service Levels

None of today’s newswires can claim to be perfect. They all experience service challenges at the top of the hour during business hours as well as during the release windows before and after markets open. (You can avoid some of these challenges by scheduling your release for a quarter after, half past, or a quarter to the hour) That said, some provide better service levels than others.

Monitor your newswire’s performance. Good metrics to use are:

  • On-time distribution rate (percentage of releases on-time)
  • Transcription error rate (percentage with errors)
  • Catastrophic failures (including failures to release, the use of the wrong wire, etc.)

Email your newswire’s performance metrics to me and I will aggregate and publish the results.

Ask your newswire if they are willing to implement a service level agreement (“SLA”) around these metrics. They will likely require you to use their portal before they agree to an SLA so that everything is clearly documented.

The Switcheroo

Unless you’re working for a start-up, chances are you arrived in your marketing and communications role with a company that already has an established newswire relationship. Every communication professional eventually finds themselves contemplating the ol’ switcheroo due to a lapse in their newswire’s service. However, before you go down that road, it is often easier to work with your current newswire to elevate their service levels than to switch. Switching newswires can be very painful depending on how tightly integrated your current newswire is with your distribution process.

The Newswire Recommended by the PR Agency

When an agency recommends a newswire they likely have an agency agreement with that newswire to share in some of the profits. That’s ok. Part of the advantage is that your agency knows the current market rates and receives volume pricing. You therefore benefit through lower costs.

That said, your PR Agency is biased. If you’re happy with your current newswire’s service and price then there is little reason to switch. Also, if your newswire is tightly integrated with your distribution system (i.e. your newswire auto-posts to your website via XML, auto-posts to your social media feeds, and distributes your email news alerts) it may not be worth the headache.

Newswire Services  – What Should I Use?

The transmission of news releases to news outlets has become commoditized over time. As a result, newswires have started to bundle this service with other technologies to stay relevant and maintain their margins. In addition to sending your news release across the wire, newswires also bundle the following services under various cost structures:

  • EDGAR/SEDAR filing
  • E-mail news alert blasts
  • Social media posting
  • XML/RSS feeds that update your website
  • Conference call services
  • Webcast services
  • Media microsites
  • Investor microsites
  • News media monitoring
  • Social media monitoring
  • Media engagement and management systems

Up until recently, the multiple services bundled by newswires represented the most efficient way to manage both primary and secondary distribution of your news. Once the release crossed the wire the newswire would take care of its filing, email blast your subscribers, post the news to your social media channels, and update your website via XML feed. You could then track engagement, sentiment, and amplification using the media monitoring tools resold by newswires.

This level of integration made switching newswires a dauntingly onerous task.

Today, there is a better solution that won’t handcuff you to your current newswire. Substitute technologies have emerged that can deliver better reliability, additional functions, at lower cost. What’s more is that using a newswire like a one-stop shop, using the entire cross section of services they offer, is unlikely to deliver best of breed technology across all services.

Newswire Service Bundles vs. WordPress

The WordPress content management system, and its ecosystem of plugins, now provides powerful capabilities to automate the distribution and syndication of your content. It can also do so in a much richer format while also achieving better reliability and flexibility.

For example, using WordPress with the right plugins you can:

  • Easily add a rich text format release to your website;
  • Augment your release with rich media such as video, audio and/or photographs;
  • Categorize the release to control where it appears for customer and investor audiences;
  • Automate its dissemination by email to specific audiences;
  • Regulate the frequency of e-mails (instant alert or weekly/monthly summary emails); and
  • Automate dissemination to multiple social media profiles, groups, and company pages.

Powering nearly 27% of all websites and holding a 60% share of the content management system market, WordPress represents a significant threat to the bundle of services offered by newswires. To counter this, newswires should consider building their own value-add plugins for the WordPress environment.

Use the Newswire for the Newswire

Let’s face it, being a newswire is obviously what a newswire is best at. They’re also good at some ancillary services, especially those that they have been doing for a long time.

Using the newswire to manage the following functions will deliver good results:

  • Newswire dissemination;
  • Filing (if applicable); and
  • Booking conference calls and webcasts.

Which newswire services you use will largely be dictated by your company’s individual requirements, its role structure and its IT framework. For example, your legal department may wish to own the filing function as part of its legal and corporate secretarial role (although their outside legal counsel will charge much more to EDGAR/SEDAR file than a newswire will). Your marketing department will likely want to own social media posting. And finally, if you don’t use WordPress to manage your digital content, you may elect to have your newswire manage the digital distribution of your news to email subscribers, social media profiles and your website.

When Not to Use a Newswire

If you’re targeting a local audience using a newswire is probably overkill. Instead, marketing and communication professionals should nurture and leverage relationships with local news desks and journalists that can reach their target audience.

Using a newswire is also ineffective to target specialty and periodic pieces about technology, real estate, home improvements, etc. Check with your local news outlets to determine what their publication calendar looks like and whether any of their specialty pieces fit with your target audience.

Conclusion

Newswires still represent an indispensable channel for companies to get their news out. None of them are perfect and they are all trying to adapt to an ever changing and increasingly hostile environment.

 

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