Any journalist or blogger I talk to says they receive a lot of press releases every day. I recently got a message from a reporter working at a small local paper who received 80 press releases in one day – of which only two were relevant to the information his paper covers. This didn’t surprise me, because I hear this story over and over again. It did get me thinking though, “I wonder how many press releases are distributed each day?”
I’ve tried to find this information before with no luck. I decided to give it another try, this time using Twitter to issue the question to popular news distribution services PR Newswire, BusinessWire, Marketwire, and PRWeb. Within a few hours, PR Newswire and BusinessWire responded with almost identical answers: they both send out about 1,000 releases each day (2,000 total), though special features and busy news times can drive this number even higher. Holiday tie-in news releases for example.
While I don’t know the averages for PRWeb or Marketwire (they didn’t respond to my Twitter question), a rough glance at their website feeds showed about 300 press releases from PRWeb last Monday – a popular news day – and about another 400 press releases from MarketWire on the same day.
These numbers don’t account for the countless other wire (free and paid), email, and fax release distribution services, nor do they account for releases sent personally to individual journalists by PR pros. While some journalists may only receive 10 or so releases a day, there are many more that receive 100 or more.
With this type of volume, how effective is the press release at generating media coverage? If press releases were generating consistent publicity for clients, and serving as valuable tools for journalists and bloggers, I’d say keep cranking them out. The truth is, the targeting of press releases is poor. Most press releases end up in the trash bin because they’re rarely a fit for the target – or they lack news value, to begin with.
When you consider that each press release costs anywhere from $250 to 1,000 or more to distribute, it seems like a lot of money (and time) is being wasted on this poor-performing tactic. Sure, there are some SEO benefits to sending out news releases, but that value is minimal when considering the cost of distribution. I’m sure there are also clients that get a lot of value from press releases (CareerBuilder for example gets a ton of pickup from their releases – but they’re packed with great data that journalists can gobble up).
There are more than enough blogs out there that talk about the coming death of the press release – this isn’t one of them – I don’t believe it’s going anywhere. Rather, I think the release is evolving. There are a lot of great social media release services out there. If you produce a high-quality press release, target it to only the right outlets, and leverage emerging platforms (PitchEngine is a good example), you can generate a lot of value from your efforts. If you’re not willing to take the time to do this though, don’t do it – there’s too much competition out there to get noticed.
Journalists and bloggers: how many press releases do you receive on a typical day? What percentage of those releases are relevant to your coverage area? Have you used press release information to develop a story in the past month?