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Innovations in Journalism – Newsvetter – taking the pain out of press releases

Screenshot of Newsvetter logo

In our Innovations in Journalism series we give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are developing.

Today’s candidate is Newsvetter – a site that wants to build better connections between journalists and PRs, starting with more targeted press releases.

Founder Andrew Fowler tells us more:

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
I’m a former PR practitioner who worked in the profession for about eight years. I cut my teeth at a big PR agency and then after a couple of years started consulting for smaller companies and organizations as a solo practitioner.

I have spent the bulk of my career pitching ‘news’ to journalists – a core PR function that now more than ever is being equated with spam.

Why is this happening? Quality has given way to quantity. With the aid of press release distribution services and social networks, journalists are receiving record numbers of poor quality and irrelevant material from PR people.

In November 2007, I launched the online news vetting and delivery service Newsvetter. Based in Portland, Oregon USA, Newsvetter is designed to discourage mass pitching and help journalists extract higher quality information from companies and PR agencies.

Instead of sending press releases and cut-and-paste pitches, PR people go through a vetting Q&A process on the site made up of key questions commonly asked by journalists. Follow this link for an example of a completed Q&A.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
The vetting process provides answers to key questions which then allows journalists to quickly evaluate a story idea’s potential and verify its accuracy. Journalists can also register, create a public profile on the site which allows them to provide details about their beat, publication, current interests, recent stories, and when and how they like to get contacted. Journalists can share their profile URL with the PR people they work with. To see an example profile of a journalist on Newsvetter use this link.

After viewing a journalist’s profile, PR people email them news ideas, but only after they complete the vetting process.

To encourage quality, journalists can rate and comment on the work submitted by PR people. Comments and ratings become part of a PR person’s public record on Newsvetter (one that can be viewed by journalists, peers, employer, client etc.). One goal of mine is to create a system similar to eBay’s “feedback score” for sellers which will reward those who submit quality story ideas.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?
The site is currently in beta. Under development are some changes to the user interface, which will make the site easier to understand and use, as well as some features that will make the service more attractive for PR people.

4) Why are you doing this?
I’m hearing loud and clear from journalists that the quality of news pitches to them is substandard (and largely irrelevant). Rather than talk (more) about it, I’ve created a working tool that addresses this issue head on.

5) What does it cost to use it?
Newsvetter will always be a free service for journalists. It is also currently free to PR people. In the coming months, Newsvetter will offer a set of premium features, which companies and PR agencies can pay to access.

6) How will you make it pay?
The pay-off is that journalists associate Newsvetter with quality and will thoughtfully review PR submissions that come through the site (rather than simply delete them ). PR people will see Newsvetter as a service that can help build relationships with journalists and increase quality coverage for their company or client.