Sunday, September 17, 2006

PR and its hopes for an online future

Small is nimble. Small is friendly. Small can get by on the seat of its pants. Newsrooms that can be walked across in less than a minute will continue to see smaller internal benefits of IT innovation than bigger papers. So why bother keeping up with the bleeding edge of Web standards?

How about this: so you can spend less time retyping your damn press releases?

Over in the PR industry, the fight is on over press release 2.0. This week, the heartbreakingly idealistic Social Media Club (they're trying to establish standards among social Web practices) formed a Media Release Working Group with the goal of introducing a common set of tags to separate the traditional parts of a release: 5 W's, CEO headshot, self-congratulatory quotes, and so forth.

Once that information's organized, it can be distributed to reporters, who'll be able to quickly or automatically arrange the raw information in the release and slap a lede on top.

Enhancing the 75-year-old (?) "release" format, if you will. See my last post on the need to chunk up the data in our own stories.

I'm extrapolating here from one of the group's members, Tom "my son found lonelygirl15" Foremski, who called for these changes back in February. (But see Kevin Dugan's response, noting that markup standards won't solve all the problems with press releases.)

Of course, this'll only clear the way for robot journalists. (Tx Romenesko.) The presence of two members of the working group -- Market Wire and BusinessWire -- make it clear which reporting sector has the most to gain here.

But seriously: new information standards will give newspapers both external and internal efficiency gains. And that's a few more minutes we can invest in the work that really matters: finding out how the hell the release might affect our readers.

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