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Are Direct-to-Consumer News Releases morphing into News Programs?

14 June 2006 7 Comments

I am having fun “hosting” this special week on the International Association of Online Communicators blog. Lots of good dialog is happening. Thanks for your participation.

Steve O’Keefe suggests a new topic Are Direct-to-Consumer News Releases morphing into News Programs?

Steve says: “We are now speaking of news releases that are no longer news releases; they are programming. You exchange something of value for attention — help with a problem, an entertaining animation, a tip sheet for packing Christmas presents. David, what say you about news releases as news programs? or entertainment?”

Thanks for asking, Steve. I think great content is valuable no matter what the medium: YouTube video clip, a podcast, a Wall Street Journal article and yes, the once lowly press release, all have potential to enlighten and inform.

What do YOU think?

7 Comments »

  • Anonymous said:

    I'll subscribe!
    The only thing that still worries me is the positioning that “News Releases” already own in the minds of the public? Don't people sneer at us flacks? Don't we need the third-party endorsement to make our stories believable?
    (Guess what?!……As I was writing this, I did a quick search on the word “flackery” and came up with a dynamite article in the New York Observer that echoes everything David has been saying! Maybe I should brush off my gray flannel suit!
    “Publicists Lauded for Flackery; PR Gods Get Freedom From Press. By Jason Horowitz. “In a world where we don’t have a belief in a single source, you don’t have a Walter Cronkite anymore. P.R. is the discipline on the rise,” said Richard W. Edelman… Check it out:
    http://www.observer.com/20060313/20060313_Jason_Horowitz_pageone_newsstory3.asp )

  • Anonymous said:

    Morty,
    In my experince, the average reader either has no clue what the source of a piece of content is or if they do, they understand what's going on.
    If you ask people “where did you see that story?” they will say “Google” (or “Yahoo” or whatever.
    People who are more saavy might say “it was a press release on Google”
    I think as a profession we read too much into this stuff. Yes, its sad that many people can't make a distintion between a Boston Globe story on Google News vs. a company issued press release. But a well-written piece of content is valuable no matter the source. And crap is crap no matter the source.

  • Anonymous said:

    David,
    Amen!
    Thought I should add this quote from the NY Observer article (by Jason Horowitz)
    “Mr. Edelman—and he is not alone—believes that the erosion of the public’s trust in bedrock institutions after scandals in government, big business and the press only contributes to the industry’s success. Without anyone holding a monopoly on truth, the argument goes, P.R. people can get their messages across without pesky filters like, say, the news media.”

  • Anonymous said:

    David,
    I think it’s basic human nature to remember the message more than the source. That’s one reason it can be just as important to advertisers (or publicists) to consider the quality or reputation of the media they appear in as it is to get the right distribution. When I was doing PR and advertising for the National Alliance of Business, the organization enjoyed lots of free public service advertising. On a flight to New York to visit our ad agency, the person sitting next to me asked where I worked. When I replied “NAB,” he said, “Ah yes, I just read an article about them in Time Magazine.” As a matter of fact, he had seen a full page ad but had remembered it as an article. Or perhaps he didn’t want to admit he reads ads. To be fair, the ad had been crafted with more content than most ads then running in Time. But it certainly supports your position that people aren’t very discerning about their information sources.
    Speaking of advertising, another issue comes to mind: We might be approaching the day when news releases become “advertising.” If this distribution method continues to grow, you have to wonder how long it will take Google to find a way to charge for news releases.
    Don Dunnington

  • Anonymous said:

    Maybe we're heading for what Steve Outing wrote about on PoynterOnline–calling for interactive advertising: “Comments on Ads: A Radically Good Idea.”
    Robin Good wrote about the article and my comment to it:
    http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2006/03/16/interactive_twoway_ad_conversations_can.htm

  • Anonymous said:

    Morty — great trackback on that New York Observer article. While rather smug — no doubt the reporter's revenge for enduring countless PR pitches — you notice it appears next to an advertisement. We all know the major media play games with paid placements. We can't trust the media, or the corporations, or the government — or the bloggers. The best we can do is get access to source documents and triangulate on the truth by sampling from various news sources.
    A news release assumes that there are news gatekeepers. There still are, but they're fading. In their place come “trusted speakers” whose endorsements we covet . These experts and celebrities are capable of speaking directly to the public without the interference of a studio or a network or a recording company.
    The old ideal of news reporting — the careful collection of facts, personal interviews with key figures, and shrewd analysis adding up to a well-assembled piece — is making way to hive news: listening for the buzz as stories move across the electronic landscape.
    STEVE O'KEEFE

  • Anonymous said:

    Steve,
    Whew! Quite an editorial there. Sounds like it's been perking for some time!
    Reminds me of a discussion on Bob Bly's blog
    http://www.bly.com/blog/?p=137
    Where he quoted Barbara Ehrenreich's “Bait and Switch”: “PR is really journalism’s evil twin.
    “Whereas a journalist seeks the truth, a PR person may be called upon to disguise it or even to advance an untruth,” says Ehrenreich. “If your employer, a pharmaceutical company, claims its new drug cures both cancer and erectile dysfunction, your job is to promote it, not to investigate the ground for these claims.”
    I commented:
    Nobody owns a copyright on truth or lies.
    There’s an old joke about the Russian Communist “news”papers Pravda (”Truth”) and Izvestia (”News”): “V Pravdye nye izvestia, v Izvestia nye pravda–There’s no news in The Truth and no truth in The News!”
    Our own newspapers enjoy their own “freedom of the press.” Do the New York Times and the Washington Post seek the truth? Honestly?
    In “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” the reporter tears up his notes and tells Senator Ranse Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) why he can’t print the real story: “It ain’t news. This is the West! When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
    All marketing is mental jiu-jitsu. You use what’s already in the prospect’s mind to position your product or service. Is that evil? Is that news?

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