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The Untold History of ...


The news release turns 110 years old on Oct. 28.

I’ve already rehearsed my line for the party, “Hey, you don’t look a day over 90.”

How fitting that a train wreck — a three-car train from the Pennsylvania Railroad went off the rails and into a creek on October 28, 1906 killing more than 50 people — prompted the invention of the news release. Given its auspicious start, it’s no wonder that the news release has aged with the grace of Donald Trump buying all of the 7-Elevens in El Paso.

This infographic charts the news release’s journey from humble beginnings to its current state.

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1996 changed everything.

Until this point in time journalists enjoyed a free lunch. With little effort, they could write stories riffing on news releases knowing the stories would appear fresh to their readers. This advantage disappeared in 1996 when distribution services started flinging out news releases to the masses via the internet.

It took some time to erode the status quo. Muscle memory doesn’t change so easily in the world of journalism.

Yet, fast forwarding to today we can safely conclude that the commoditization of the news release is complete. I’ll bet not even 1 percent of news releases prompts a journalist to write a story, a disdain cultivated in an era when information in the public domain is perceived as having little or no value.

Speaking at the Holmes Report Innovation Summit earlier this year, we pieced together the estimate that companies distributed around 762,000 news releases in 2015. Figuring 30 hours go into writing a news release — sourcing, writing, changing “leading-edge” to “innovative,” etc. — at $200 per hour puts the total spend for news release creation at roughly $4,572,000,000.

That’s a hefty chunk of change to pacify internal stakeholders and the SEC.


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