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How to Build a Better Online Newsroom

What makes a great online newsroom? For starters, news. If you have plenty of compelling, relevant, timely, engaging, exclusive or otherwise sensational news to share with the media on a regular basis, it probably doesn’t matter what your online newsroom looks like (just take a look at Twitter’s online newsroom if you don’t believe me).

Twitter doesn’t have an online newsroom – but try to find an outlet that hasn’t covered the company in the past year. Twitter is an anomaly. It can get away with it. After all, Twitter is the media and most journalists are only a tweet away.

But what if you’re organization is slightly less popular than Twitter? What can you do to make your online newsroom more compelling? What information should be in your online newsroom to improve your chances of scoring an interview with your favorite journalist or blogger?

Rather than provide you with a checklist of content you should add to your online newsroom, I decided to take a look at the online newsrooms for some other top-of-mind technology companies. My plan was to find some ideas you might be able to use for your online newsroom. I hope you find a couple of good nuggets you can use to build a better online newsroom for your organization.For the purposes of this review, I looked at the online newsrooms for Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. I tried to single out three things I liked about each online newsroom (and at least one thing I thought could be improved). Of course, this is based completely on my opinion, so I encourage you to visit the newsrooms on your own to determine what would work best for your needs. You’ll also note I awarded some “bonus points” for features I felt provided a lot of value for journalists and bloggers.

Apple Press Info

Apple is a media favorite. The company gets an incredible amount of traffic to its online newsroom and is built to handle it with the following features.

What I Like

  • Apple Media Helpline – the most dominant element of Apple’s online newsroom is a phone number for its Apple Media Helpline (along with an email address for media inquiries). I can’t overstate the importance of having media contacts prominently displayed in your newsroom. Apple does a great job here – they’re basically telling journalists “call us.”
  • Latest Press Releases – the media might not be interested in your press releases anymore (a topic for another post), but many care what Apple has to say. The company’s press releases are always relevant and deserve to be the dominant element of their newsroom.
  • Search Press Info – Apple does a great job with their newsroom navigation. Providing search capabilities makes things even easier for busy journalists – especially if you have a lot of content in your newsroom, as Apple does.

Room for Improvement

  • Social Media – there is no obvious way to engage with Apple’s PR team via social media. I see this as an area that could be improved, as journalists and bloggers continue to engage with PR professionals through these channels. It would also be nice to see summaries of social media activity around Apple news and events – or the ability to share information easily across social channels.

Bonus Points

  • Product Pages – Apple deserves bonus points for featuring quick links to its product info on its site. Journalists can quickly navigate to Product Info from its Media Resources menu. They have a separate product section, with press releases, images and “quick links” to related information specific to each product.

online press room - FacebookFacebook Press Room

I have to admit, Facebook is my personal favorite as far as online press rooms go. While the company has been criticized for its media relations in the past, the Facebook Press Room is the most frequent example I show to people.

What I Like

  • Consistent Look and Feel – the Facebook Press Room looks like part of Facebook. All the information is organized like any other Page you would see on Facebook. I think this works very well for them. And considering they have more than 350 million users now, there’s a good chance visitors are comfortable with the layout.
  • Organization of Information – think of anything you would want to know about the company and you’ll find a link for it on this page. The company boilerplate is front and center, followed by releases, and recent blog posts (the best of both old and new media relations).
  • Statistics – many companies hide their numbers (or more accurately, choose not to share this information – usually due to competitive reasons). Facebook provides a handy page with all sorts of useful statistics on its usage, averages, growth rates, platform, etc.
  • Content – factsheets, bios, images, a timeline, and b-roll footage (with videos on every conceivable topic) round out the newsroom content. No wonder Facebook is in the news so much (I’m sure it has nothing to do with its stratospheric growth rate).

Room for Improvement

  • Social Media Mashup – There is little room for improvement with Facebook’s newsroom. Since I promised I would come up with at least one suggestion, I might like to see a rollup of what Facebook users are saying about the company right now (pulling from Facebook status updates or third-party social media).

Bonus Points

  • Speaker Request / Interview Request – Facebook gets bonus points for including both a “Speaker Request” and “Interview Request” option in its newsroom. This is the best feature of all the press rooms I looked at (it’s very well done too).
  • Tell Us a Story – Facebook also includes a “Your Stories” option that encourages users to share their stories about using Facebook. They let their users know that they are interested in hearing from them, and would like to share their stories with the rest of the world. This is awesome.

Google Press Center

The Google Press Center is pretty boring at first glance, but built to serve its function (like everything else Google creates). And if there’s one thing I know about Google, they test and retest everything. I guarantee you that every piece of content in the newsroom is exactly where it’s supposed to be.

What I Like

  • Google Blog – most of Google’s news is communicated through its blog, which is the dominant element of its Press Center. The company only seems to produce press releases for the really BIG stuff (like the recent Nexus One Phone announcement). I like the blog approach for Google because that’s the format that best fits the journalists and bloggers that write about them.
  • Reviewer’s Guides – reviews are essential for gaining adoption for Google’s products and services. Providing Reviewer’s Guides for self-service through the Press Center is an excellent feature. This makes it easy for any journalist or blogger to conduct their own review on any of Google’s products or services.
  • The Google Podium – executive talks from the Official Google YouTube Channel. I like this feature because it gives you access to Google’s leadership in video form. It doesn’t hurt that it’s powered by one of Google’s products (as are most of the Press Center’s offerings).

Room for Improvement

  • More Real-Time Stuff – This is a very functional online newsroom. Like the Facebook example, there is little I would change in the newsroom. I would like to see more interactivity on the site – perhaps a mashup of Google’s Twitter accounts, a live feed of Google events and happenings around the world, or “trending topics” related to what people are searching on Twitter right now (similar to Twitter’s features).

Bonus Points

  • Google Twitter Directory – Google has a Twitter feed for every product it has. If you’re interested in following a specific product, you can quickly find the appropriate feed in this directory. There is also a Google Blog Directory that serves a similar function. This is a great approach to building relationships with audiences around the areas they are most interested in.

Microsoft News Center

Microsoft is the oldest company in this comparison group, so you might expect they would have a pretty sophisticated online newsroom (they do).

What I Like

  • Visual Impact – Microsoft has one of the better-looking newsrooms of the mix, appearing more like a page you would see on an Internet news site (you know, like you might see on MSN.com). The Microsoft News Center features a lot of news. Rather than resorting to a bunch of press releases, the company has produced its own news content in its newsroom. This is a nice touch.
  • Press Tools – for journalists and bloggers that prefer to write their own stories, rather than read what Microsoft’s journalists have to say, the company provides a wide-range of media resources you would expect to see: press releases, facts about Microsoft, bios, images, videos, b-roll and analyst reports.
  • Microsoft on the Issues – one of the featured blogs in its News Center, Microsoft provides content around the issues of the day – from the company’s perspective. This is a good use of the company’s influence around the world – and a great resource for journalists and bloggers.

Bonus Points

  • PressPass RSS – Microsoft gets bonus points for its PressPass RSS feed in its newsroom. Subscribers can customize their feed based on the information that is relevant to them. This is an awesome feature for an online newsroom, particularly for an organization like Microsoft that has so many different media audiences to serve around the world.
  • Worldwide Contact Info – Microsoft also provides contact information for every market around the world on its newsroom. Any journalist can quickly find the appropriate media contact (including agency representatives) through its newsroom. While you might expect this from a company of this size, it’s amazing how many companies don’t do this.

Room for Improvement

  • Featured Stories – The company has a “Featured Stories” section that appears below the fold in its newsroom. I personally found these stories to be among the most interesting content on the site. As of this writing, there is a story about a college tour, some cool features of Bing Maps, and Microsoft’s efforts to combat child pornography. I would like to see these stories featured more prominently in a feed on the site. In fairness, there is a ton of content on the site, so something is always going to go below the fold.

Final Thought

As a final thought, we were able to find all the above mentioned newsrooms through a simple search for “company name” and “newsroom.” This is an important point. What shows up in search results if you search “your company name” and “newsroom”? Remember to have your search engine optimization expert manage your online newsroom as well.

When was the last time you looked at your newsroom? Put yourself in the shoes of a busy journalist or blogger and visit the site – would you be able to find what you’re looking for? What information is most compelling? What can you do to improve the experience?

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • Ibrey Woodall

    Jeremy -
    Enjoyed the article. To go along with it, your readers might like to see a list of items to have in an online newsroom. If so, they can find them in PR Tactics: http://bit.ly/6Q6hC1
    Ibrey

    • Jeremy Porter

      Thanks for this suggestion. I think a list could help people just starting out. I know there are a lot of those checklists out there, which is why I took the direction I did with the post. That said, I’m sure readers will appreciate the additional resource.

  • http://www.lauraclick.com Laura Click

    Great information! Most heavy hitters, like the ones you mentioned, definitely deploy the use of newsrooms quite well. However, I think small businesses, non-profits and government entities could also greatly benefit from this approach.

    I think as newsrooms continue to shrink, it is more important now than ever to use online newsrooms effectively. Journalists are having to do more with less. Don’t make it hard for them to find information about your organization. If you want press coverage, then make it easy for them to write about you by providing accurate, useful information that’s easily accessible. This is a simple concept, but so often forgotten.

    • Jeremy Porter

      That was the point of the post – which I’m glad came through. You don’t have to be a behemoth tech company to use these features. Anyone can have a newsroom like the ones mentioned, it’s just HTML (okay, and some PHP, CSS and all that other stuff).

      You don’t need third-party “newsroom plug-in services” either. While some of the broadcast newsroom products (like the ones used for b-roll) are an exception, as the video hosting in terms of bandwidth can be expensive and they could be worth it.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    Jeremy, I like that you like that Microsoft includes more contact info; for a reporter, contact is key. Yes an online newsroom can and should be a font of information and resources, but it’s boilerplate that’s available to anyone. Most writers and journalists are looking for unique stories, quotes and soundbites exclusive to them; being able to contact the right people is essential for telling different stories. FWIW.

    • Jeremy Porter

      I couldn’t agree more about contact information. I think that’s the most important element of the newsroom.

      To your point about unique content, that’s exactly why I like Facebook’s newsroom the most. It does the best job of allowing the media to request unique information from Facebook. At the same time, Facebook provides all the supplemental information on its site that journalists would need to round out their stories.

      In an era where everyone is the media, I also like the fact that Facebook invites users to share their stories – in the newsroom. I thought this was a unique placement of this option for them – it signals that they really understand the changes in the definition of “media” today.

      • http://www.businesswire.com Ibrey Woodall

        Interestingly enough, the desire to access PR Contact information was surpassed by the desire to search archives. I surveyed several journalists for the TEKgroup Online Newsroom survey for many years, and was surprised when this happened a couple of years ago. The 2009 survey can be found at http://www.tekgroup.com/research (p.s. registration required).

        The most important thing to remember is to provide more than just a keyword search. Journalists need to be able to filter the search requirements based on their research and deadline needs.

        • Jeremy Porter

          That’s a great suggestion. Advanced search features are a must. Microsoft’s site seemed to do this the best (which makes sense, with so much information to sort through).

          Archives and required login are equally valuable tips. I’d be concerned that required login would turn some journalists away though. Do you think that’s the case?

          • http://www.businesswire.com Ibrey Woodall

            The required login question has been an age-old battle within the industry. In my online newsroom travels, I found some PR professionals to be adamantly against it, while others were open and understanding of the benefits of password protection. Because of the passion held by both sides, I added that question to the TEKgroup Online Newsroom Survey several years ago, and even wrote an article about it for PR Week. I can’t find the article on the http://www.prweek.com archives right now, but I can ask Erica Iacono for a copy of it if necessary. I probably have a copy on my home computer.

            Surprisingly, required registration was not quite the albatross. In 2009, almost 80% of journalists surveyed confirmed they would register to enter an online newsroom. However, careful consideration should be taken when deciding which sections to password protect, and the decision is individual to an organization’s needs. The organization should also be able to easily open or close a section at will. The communications team for http://news.prudential.com found this out last year.

            Areas commonly guarded are PR contact cell phone numbers and high-resolution photographs (http://news.walgreens.com). On occasion, you’ll see the executive biographies section closed. Rarely will you see the entire online newsroom secured, but it does happen as you can see at http://media.detroitlions.com.

            Registration can be a win-win for both parties. Registered journalists are able to receive email alerts that contain targeted information specific to their beat, while PR pros can gather intelligence by identifying who actually accessed the content within their online newsroom.

            Sorry for the long reply, but it isn’t a once size fits all situation. And you did ask. :o ) Give me a shout if you want to chat more about it – http://www.linkedin.com/in/ibreywoodall.

          • Jeremy Porter

            No need to apologize for length, this is a fantastic response and more than I expected.

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  • Nlinton

    Thank you for this article! I am asked this frequently by people and I like to show examples of what they can do as well. These will go into my pocket for future use.

  • Uma Subramaniam

    What a useful article, especially since you took the trouble to analyze the online newsrooms of companies that do it well. You’ve given me lots of food for thought. More importantly, you’ve provided me with arguments I can use to build my case for clients to invest in online newsrooms that go beyond simply posting press releases and including contact information such as “pr@xyzcompany.com.” Thanks!

  • Andrea

    For a newbie to the world of pr and online newsrooms, you have done an excellent job of explaining the concept. I especially like the examples. This is definately worth saving into my treasure box of info. Looking forward to other blogs.

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  • Sebastian D.

    http://www.thesharkguys.com/2010/02/01/25-ways-to-save-the-newspaper-industry/

    Here’s a fun corollary…

    How to save the newspaper biz…

    • Jeremy Porter

      Nice. I got a good laugh out of that one – particularly the suggestion to cut off fingers of readers who try to take more than one copy of the paper from the machine. Thanks.

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  • http://www.tekgroup.com Steve Momorella

    Great response Ibrey!

    Another thing to c0nsider with your Online Newsroom and having password protected areas is your audience. Today’s Online Newsrooms are targeting many more people other than journalists. You might want to have a special area for your employees, or for sales agents, or for high-level investors or partners. Or a special private focus group for customers or prospects. In these areas, you would certainly want to have password protection because the message you are delivering is private, and therefore worthy of being locked down.

    In addition to thinking about password protection in terms of “content”, also consider the audiences that you are serving. Today’s Online Newsrooms are geared toward many influencers, not just journalists.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.glidetechnologies.com emma boyle

    Online newsrooms (we refer to them as a online media centres) are at the heart of our solution and we provide this service to some of the World’s largest companies – at Glide, we’re fortunate to count Barclays (http://www.newsroom.barclays.com), eBay (http://www.ebay-mediacentre.co.uk/) and Motorola (http://mediacenter.motorola.com/) amoung our stellar client list.

    Our product is designed to make it easier for organisations to communicate with journalists and bloggers, by providing them with access to our clients latest news and digital assets via our online newsroom solution 24/7.

    I thought your readers might be interested in what we do! You can also find us on Twitter http://twitter.com/GlideTech.

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