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PRWeb CEO Explains Decision and Enhancements

Posted on Oct 17th, 2006
Written by Lee Odden
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    After announcing that PRWeb was going to discontinue their free press release distribution service, there was quite a bit of buzz in the search marketing and PR blogosphere. Some people considered it as suspiciously financially motivated and too soon after the acquisition by Vocus. However most people, myself included, believe this is an excellent move for PRWeb.

    Too many companies were abusing the free wire service to send out less than credible announcements. I’ve always believed that the credibility of the newswire is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of news releases that they distribute.

    I sent a few questions to PRWeb CEO David McInnis to get a more formal response and clarification on what was behind the decision to discontinue free press release distribution, whether PRWeb will start charging for their other free services and to ask about some of the new features coming out including an ebook publishing service and enhanced press release metrics.

    Despite the explanation you’ve given for making the change for eliminating free press releases, there are still people who will say that it’s a bit close to the acquisition by Vocus to be making this change. How do you respond to that?

    You may be surprised to know that I am the one that petitioned Vocus to bring an end to free press releases. This is something that I have been working on for a while, and the acquisition of PRWeb by Vocus actually slowed down the process of ending our free press service. We actually had already taken a major step in the direction of eliminating free releases earlier this year. No doubt you remember the i-newswire woes that were created by a free press release (see Google News Credibility Foiled). When this happened, we decided to immediately make all free press releases unavailable to search engine crawlers. Because paid press releases are accompanied by a credit card, it is easier for us to verify user identity and reduce the chance of someone using our platform in the same manner.

    Here is the bottom line. Free press releases, regardless of whose platform you are looking at, do not deliver any value. In the case of PRWeb, since we block search engine crawlers from accessing this content and we do no media distribution of free releases, our users were getting very little value. In fact, the only value to our users is in having a page on PRWeb that they can point people to. This is not a very high value proposition. My guess is that we have had a lot of users utilize our free service only to receive no results and leave disappointed. Our goal at PRWeb has always been delivering the best possible value. Disappointed customers do not satisfy that goal. Hence, we are no longer offering free distribution.

    I would think any company that is serious about using PRWeb for news distribution and marketing would prefer the features in the paid options. However, do you think that the low quality press release activity will just move from the free to the lowest level of paid? Do you think the elimination of free press releases help PRWeb’s reputation with the search engines?

    We believe that we provide the best value in the industry, even at our highest distribution level of $200. There is simply no other service in the industry that offers what we offer. You have witnessed the rapid and astonishing development of new features over the past year.

    Regarding people moving from free to paid services, I actually hope this happens. I think these users will then realize this is something that they should have been doing all along. You’re right, though; the trend has indicated that lower quality press releases are submitted for free distribution rather then paid distribution. Will these spammy releases make there way into our paid distribution? I am sure that people will try. We get a certain amount of those attempts anyway. But we have always done our best to screen these out. Our editors read and score each release according to our editorial criteria. Two options that our editors have always had are ‚Äúeditorial hold‚Äù and ‚Äúdelete.‚Äù They will continue to use these two tools to maintain quality content on our platform.

    Will elimination of free releases help our reputation in the search engines? I surely hope that everything we do helps to maintain the integrity of the platform for every one of our customers. PRWeb has its ebbs and flows in the SERPS like any content company. We have been fortunate that we have never had any serious search engine crisis. I think it is known that we do apply editorial criteria to our process, which helps.

    What’s behind the new eBook creation utility?

    The eBook creation utility is pretty cool. Basically, we are the first company to make our press releases available to users of the new Sony Reader. If you haven‚Äôt picked one up yet, you should think about it. At least put it on your Christmas list ( The eBook creation utility is basically a wizard that allows you to upload cover art and a company description to your release. We then take those elements and package your releases dynamically into a press release eBook that can be passed around the Web, shared with your clients, used as electronic media kits, etc. The resulting eBooks are formatted to be read with the Sony Reader and include your images and any podcast episodes. It’s really very cool. There may even be some SEO value to this, but we will have to monitor that.

    Please describe what has been enhanced with the statistics features.

    Where should I begin? We have made a ton of improvements to our advanced statistics to show more useful information. For example, you will now be able to compare how your release fared against category winners amongst the press releases issued the same day. You will also be able to monitor the long tail impact of your message over time as we graph forward movement in a number of ways. There is also a Google Maps mash-up in there. It’s all pretty cool stuff.

    What other enhancements is PRWeb making? Will there be any other pricing changes? Will PRWeb start to charge for the other services that are now free such as 301url, PRWebPhotowire and RSSPad?

    We are making some tweaks to our other distribution levels, but these are mostly minor. The two major changes were outlined in the letter I wrote to our users which you have already cited. One of these changes includes creating separate pages for our $80 releases simply because page one is becoming too crowded and we want to create maximum visibility for these releases. We are also moving the social media features to the newly-reworked $120 distribution point.

    I don’t envision a day where we would ever charge fees for It is a very useful tool that helps users shorten their URLs while retaining the SEO value to their site. If we do begin to charge for PRWebPhotowire in the future, it will be because we have added substantial value to the distribution similar to the route that we took with PRWeb. RSSPad is very much still in beta, and I have yet to finalize a business model for this service.

    Thanks David!