Press Releases Become 'News' via Search Aggregators

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A new report from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 31 percent of Americans regularly get news online. This may not be surprising, yet it is a dramatic change from a decade ago, when 2 percent of Americans got the news with some regularity from what was then a new source: the Internet.

What does this media trend mean to those in direct, database and Internet marketing? For starters, it's time to take a closer look at the online news landscape.

A few big players dominate the online news market. Nielsen//NetRatings data for June 2006 show that Yahoo News was the top online destination for current events and global news, with a unique audience of 27.4 million visitors. MSNBC.com followed, with a unique audience of nearly 24.1 million, and CNN.com drew a unique audience of 22.8 million.

Other Web sites widely used for

news include AOL News (16 million), NYTimes.com (11.6 million),

USAToday.com (10.1 million),

ABCNews.com (9.6 million), Google News (8.5 million), CBSNews.com (7.9 million) and washingtonpost.com (7.6 million).

According to Pew, news aggregators such as Yahoo News, AOL News and Google News "are a major source of online news. Not only are they frequently volunteered as Web sites used most often for news, but nearly half (45 percent) of Americans who regularly get news online (and 18 percent of the public overall) said they regularly visit these Web sites to get news."

By comparison, only 32 percent of online news consumers said they regularly visited the news sites of TV networks, such as CNN.com, MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com, and only 29 percent of online news consumers said they visited newspaper Web sites regularly.

In addition to using news search engines, an increasing proportion of the Internet users surveyed by Pew said they employed regular Web search engines like Google and Yahoo to get news on subjects of personal interest. In 2004, 63 percent of Internet users said they had used a search engine for this purpose. In 2006, 74 percent said they had done this.

Even as more Internet users employ search engines to seek out stories of interest, an increasing percentage inadvertently get news while they are online for other purposes. Seventy-six percent of Internet users surveyed by Pew this year said they "bump into" the news when online, up from 53 percent of online users who said they got news in this fashion back in 1996.

How can marketers harness these media trends? When people conduct a news search on Yahoo News, AOL News or Google News, they often find recent and relevant press releases along with articles from thousands of other news sources.

According to a recent report from Outsell, press releases have become the top news source of knowledge workers. Outsell called this an "eye-popping shift in most-used information types." Only 10 percent of knowledge workers in the corporate sector used press releases as news sources from September 2004 to January 2005. This changed drastically from November 2005 to February 2006, when Outsell found 37 percent of knowledge workers using press releases as news sources.

It's time for your company's direct, database and Internet marketing strategy to include public relations, because your press releases can be optimized for and distributed to the major news search engines.

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