Connecting Companies to Journalists Directly

August 1, 2010

New Site Aims to Connect Reporters and Publicists


There are few professional relationships that seesaw between love and hate more than those of public relations people and journalists. While they provide valuable help to each other at times, they rarely need the same things at the same time.

Part of the problem is that while technology is transforming the industry, communication between P.R. firms and reporters is stuck in the past. The main tool of the $6 billion-a-year publicity trade is still the telephone, and many hours are wasted while publicists cold-call reporters with article ideas that do not interest reporters, or that might interest them at another time when they are not on deadline.

Similarly, the flurry of blind e-mail messages that publicists send often go unanswered or unread.

NewsBasis, a start-up opening on Monday, wants to change that with an online marketplace to match businesses and organizations that want to broadcast their messages with journalists working on topical articles. It also has a tool for sources to footnote articles across the Web with their points of view.

NewsBasis was founded by Darryl Siry, who has been on both sides of the seesaw. He is a freelance writer for Wired and a marketing executive, most recently at Tesla Motors.

“To transform media relations using technology and using design, it has to work for both sides,” said Mr. Siry, who built NewsBasis with Jacob Rothstein, its chief technology officer.

Journalists post questions or search for sources with a particular expertise or point of view. Reporters can ask questions anonymously to avoid tipping off competitors. They can set an expiration date for their question and remove it when it has been answered to avoid getting bombarded with pitches.

Companies, public relations agencies and academics search for questions or, if they choose, get notification by e-mail whenever someone posts a relevant query.

Services like these can be particularly useful for small-business owners who want to connect with reporters but “don’t have 10 grand a month to pay a giant P.R. firm,” said Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out, a competing service whose membership is 70 percent small businesses.

On NewsBasis, sources can also add a footnote to articles across the Web, so when reporters are doing research using their Web browser, a tab will appear indicating that a NewsBasis source has offered a different point of view or corrected a fact.

Mr. Siry says that is one of the biggest differences between NewsBasis and similar services, like PR Newswire’s ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out, which in June was acquired by Vocus, a public relations software company. NewsBasis also sends requests in real time and plans to build a searchable database of questions and answers and a system to rank sources like companies, academics or associations based on whether they have been helpful, Mr. Siry said.

NewsBasis has raised $545,000 from Zelkova Ventures and individual investors and is raising additional capital. The service is free, although Mr. Siry plans to eventually charge companies and P.R. agencies.

Ed Moed, a founder of Peppercom, the New York-based public relations firm, says that NewsBasis fills a void.

“The P.R. industry is a small industry that hasn’t necessarily focused on how to communicate with journalists in a better way,” he said.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

related posts

post a new comment