News releases today have more than one audience. Despite recent media hype to the contrary, editors of key industry publications are still an important audience. These editors are decision-makers who do read a variety of news and industry publications and rely upon them to provide important information. Consumers can read news releases themselves, of course.
Despite representing a small aspect of a total public relations campaign, measuring the number of views and downloads a release had is worth doing. News release outputs can also be graphed to show correlation against media coverage. This approach can reveal strengths and weaknesses in the company's communications strategy.
Measuring media coverage, of course, is another way of measuring outputs. To do this requires some type of media monitoring service. There are many choices these days, from the traditional hard-copy clipping service to web-based services, companies that specialize in monitoring broadcast news, local companies, or database companies, such as LexisNexis, Factiva, or DIALOG, that allow a company to do its own monitoring.
Several companies combine these services, and there are companies that enable monitoring of consumer-generated media, such as blogs, Usenet newsgroups, and electronic bulletin boards.
No one service is truly comprehensive, but using a paid service will yield more robust results than relying upon free services like Google News or Topix.net. These services, however, can be a valuable supplement to an existing monitoring program.
It can be difficult to select a monitoring solution, and it is worth keeping in mind that trying to monitor everything ever written about a company anywhere in the world is an impossible task.
Some considerations in choosing a service include the type of media that need to be monitored (web-based, print, broadcast, consumer-generated media, dailies, trades, scientific journals), geography (a U.S.-based clipping services cannot provide comprehensive coverage of Asian news, for instance), staffing (in-house clipping requires a lot of staff time), frequency requirements (whether time notification is necessary), and budget.