Aside from this column, my main business is announcing and linking new Web sites. Since 1994, I've earned my living by sending e-mail press announcements, site alerts and press releases to online media, site reviewers, editors, etc. I speak on this very topic at iWorld a couple times a year. Once upon a time Jeff Bezos hired me to announce Amazon.com.
There are several strategic points to using e-mail to disseminate announcements, press releases and site alerts. It isn't enough to simply target the right people. Of course, you should target, but many online news outlets do not want news sent to them in the form of a press release. Take NewsLinx.com (a fabulous site, by the way). They don't write stories; they write headline links to stories that they find already online. Your press release is useless to them.
Also, many key editors state clearly on their sites just how they want to be contacted. Some ask that you use a special subject line, (Fred Langa's HotSpots does this), others ask that you use a special e-mail address, and still others have you use their online form as the only way they will accept a press release. This is why automated mass news release services have limitations. They simply will never reach many of the most crucial people you need to reach.
At least 100 of my contacts have highly specific rules for how they want to receive e-mail press releases. You have to either do it yourself with your own list or use a service that does it right. Otherwise, your news will be filtered into oblivion, and you won't even know it.
The other, perhaps even more important, facet of sending press releases by e-mail is to understand which news distribution service is appropriate for your particular news. If you are announcing that you just received $10 million in financing, the Yahoo! Picks of the Week editors couldn't care less, since they don't cover that. But if you are announcing the launch of a quality content Web site, then bingo, it makes sense to contact those editors.
The big national news wire services are good in the way a Greyhound bus is good: They're big, strong and go coast to coast. But they aren't good at getting off-road into the nooks and crannies that you need to enter. The big national wire services will never get into the inbox of certain key editors, especially site reviewers at portals and elsewhere. I know, because I'm also an editor at Netscape's Open Directory, and I have zero interest in seeing the national wire service feeds each day. Too much junk. Anyone with $200 can announce anything. And boy, do they.
What's the NetSense in all this?
Services such as Internet Wire, Internet News Bureau, eReleases or Xpress Press News Service likely make sense if you have tech or Net industry-related news. Likewise, if your news is about a Web launch, use a service such as my own URLwire because it reaches just those who write about or review Web site content.
It all comes down to three steps:
1) Examine what it is you are announcing.
2) Be realistic about which writers are most likely to care.
3) Use the service that reaches these writers, or get online and do it yourself.
Eric Ward, creator of URLwire, creates vertical URL announcement, submission and linking plans for major Web site launches. Contact him at AdAge@netpost.com.