Tuesday, May 10, 2011

News Releases Cut Up The Dance Floor

The slow, inexorable decline of news continues. It's not that, really, but the decline of traditional news reporting as a single-play, profitable endeavor has been undeniable for a long time. That's what people think when they think news: conventional publishing, the advertising model to support it, and the ham-fisted attempts to migrate that model to the Web. Contributing to that decline has been the online environment created by search and social media, and some have surveyed the landscape and called for the death of the news release. But news and the news releases that give rise to it are very much alive, and on search engines and social media, news is cutting up the dance floor as we look for and share information.

What else can we make of the apparent trends reported in a Washington Post article last week looking at social media's impact on the sharing of news online? Google is the 800-pound gorilla on the Internet, sending around 30 percent of traffic to all news sites. And that gorilla has an up-and-coming competitor, Facebook. A large primate feeding every day, all day, on Muscle Milk™ and who knows what else, all in an effort to bulk up and match Google's fighting weight, Facebook sends as much as 8 percent of online traffic to some news sites.

These are all significant numbers, and let's focus on social media for a moment: Any casual or not-so-casual Facebook user can attest that news links are popular attractions. Look in the home feed at any time of the day, and a good half of all status updates come in the form of a comment about a link to some news story. These typically draw conversations, and you want people talking about your news.

Does this appetite for news mean people are hungry for news releases? Certainly not, if those news releases are stuffy, boring affairs intended solely for the press. But news releases aren't that anymore, and notice that lots of people now call it a news release, not a press release.

Business Wire says making news releases ready for social media and search engines goes a long way in helping to spread your news. The problem is that, even now, few folks are doing so. Applying SEO to a news release is a subject well covered, and yet, "Only 18 Percent of News Release Headlines Are Optimized For SEO," according to a study reported by Business Insider seven months ago, when mainstream efforts to capitalize on the combination of news releases and social media had just gotten underway -- e.g. PitchEngine's launch of an app to place newsrooms on Facebook.

News itself is all around, and just like rock 'n' roll, it will never die. That's a cliché worth repeating, and news, as a currency, remains the same. Make your news releases interesting, findable and shareable. We humans have a tendency to search for interesting information, and once we find it, we have a propensity to share.