A PR-agency rep for one of the major three news-release distribution services pitched me today on the success of his client’s ability to frequently make the homepage of TechMeme, the tech news aggregator. If you work in the tech and Internet industry, TechMeme is a big deal because of it’s influence in shaping and promoting the flow of tech news and information. TechMeme’s algorithms identify and weight specific tech bloggers and use their linking behavior to decide which stories and linked sub-stories should be promoted on the TechMeme homepapage. The TechMeme Leaderboard lists the sources most frequently posted to TechMeme, and a number of the news-release distribution services are listed.
Anyway, said PR guy wrote:
When press releases can be coded and stuffed with multimedia to the point that they receive more traffic and linkage than the same news stories which add the nuance and interpretation, who is doing an end run around whom?
Beyond the “confident” tone, this guy got me thinking…What’s going on? People in the Techmeme blogger ID list, with sufficient weighting, are citing company information sources — often the news-release distribution services. That linking behavior is causing these services to frequently make the homepage of TechMeme. For hard, material, breaking news, announced first by companies using such distribution services, you’d expect that. Bloggers often comment on corporate development and link to news releases because they’re the only linkable source in the very short period after news is announced. In some cases, though rarely, I’d suggest the content is actually richer.
To me, that says one thing: PR people are probably not doing everything they can to make their own branded sites be the backlink source. Not that backlinks to a news-release distribution services are bad, but it would be better for companies to first optimize their own site and seed bloggers, press and aggregators there. Why? Because you can potentially get much better search-engine visibility (or SEO return) for your online brand and storefront — versus collecting the remnants from an intermediary wire service. And coupled with strategic landing pages, a company can be more effective at connecting the PR strategy and traffic inflow to harder branding and direct-response business objectives
To be sure, there’s convenience, reliability and some exposure gained with using news-release distribution services, but they should be a supplemental tactic to the core strategy I describe. My theory is that breaking your company’s important news — which you’d expect to garner attention, ANYWAY — solely on a news-release service is akin to giving away valuable stakeholder attention to an intermediary. To their benefit, not yours, the news service gets its branding plastered all over your information asset. Not only that, you get slapped with a hefty distribution fee, often in the thousands. I think a more useful offering from the news-release services would be a white-label version directs far greater traffic directly to YOUR site.
That’s my gut, but I’d love perspective from anyone else out there.
UPDATE: I shared this with Peter Himler, and he pointed me to a recent post about the blurring of third-party editorial and corporate content, a byproduct of more readily accessible corporate content amidst news aggregators and savvy information consumers. To me, more sources are better in a democracy. But if your job is representing your side, I stick to my theory and argument above.