Wholly Owned Subsidiary of United News & Media plc
Sales: $100 million (1998 est.)
NAIC: 514110 News Syndicates
PR Newswire is among the world leaders in the electronic delivery of information directly from companies, institutions, and agencies to news media and other organizations throughout the world. A subsidiary of United News & Media plc, PR Newswire operates through 35 worldwide bureaus. It also has an exclusive partnership with Canada NewsWire Ltd. and numerous international affiliates. The company transmits an average of 1,200 news releases per day as well as numerous multimedia broadcasts and other information, using wire, fax, satellite, and Internet technologies to deliver news and information supplied by more than 40,000 client companies, institutions, public relations agencies, and other clients. The firm’s clients, which pay an annual membership fee, are able to choose from a variety of distribution options. In the late 1990s, PR Newswire added several services for public relations professionals, including distributing news releases, setting up conference calls on the World Wide Web, providing investor relations web sites, and cybercasting press conferences, annual meetings, and other events. In 2000, PR Newswire began offering clients the capability to track online news release activity, enabling them to monitor hits, rumors, perceptions, and discussions of their companies on the Internet.
Origins as Local Newswire Service: 1950s-60s
PR Newswire was founded in 1954 by Herbert Muschel, the originator of TV Guide, to deliver news releases from public and investor relations practitioners to the news media. Prior to the founding of PR Newswire, delivering news releases to the media was a time-consuming and uncertain process. Each newspaper or periodical had to be serviced individually. PR Newswire enabled public and investor relations professionals to deliver their news items to several publications at once.
At first, PR Newswire delivered news releases from public relations agencies, corporations, and other sources to 12 major news media in New York City over a private teleprinter network. Clients would submit one copy of their news release to PR Newswire, which in turn would provide simultaneous delivery over its newswire for a flat fee of $15 per day.
In the 1960s there was a general newspaper strike in New York City, and during the strike PR Newswire expanded its teleprinter circuit to newspapers in Philadelphia, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The company continued to operate during the 1960s as a public relations wire service, delivering news release content from client companies, institutions, and agencies, to newspapers on its circuit.
Changes in Ownership: 1970s-80s
In 1971 PR Newswire was acquired by Western Union Corporation. For the next ten years it operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Union, during which time its distribution expanded to include the investment community across the United States. Then in 1982 the company was acquired by United News & Media Group plc of London, England. It would continue as a wholly owned subsidiary of this new parent company.
In the mid-1980s PR Newswire began building a national distribution network. It acquired local wire services and opened more bureaus across the United States. At the end of the decade PR Newswire had 17 bureaus and about 15,000 clients. In 1990 it acquired Publicity Central of Minnesota. With the 1997 acquisition of Southwest Newswire in Dallas and Public Relations News Service in Chicago—the two largest remaining wire operations in the United States—PR Newswire had completed its national distribution network. It was able to reach 22,000 media outlets and one million financial institutions directly.
New Services and Technologies: 1990s
NewsFax was one of the new services introduced by PR Newswire at the beginning of the 1990s. The service complemented the company’s wire service by using fax transmissions to reach news media and other organizations that were not wire subscribers and did not have access to online wire services. NewsFax saved client companies the trouble of doing their own in-house faxing of news and information.
Another new service introduced late in 1989 was called Entertainet, an entertainment-oriented news and sports network. Entertainet was formed jointly by three companies: PR Newswire, ABC Television Networks, and computer networking company Indesys Inc. The service delivered sports and entertainment news releases from client companies into editorial computers at 16 newspapers. The system utilized both satellite and FM subcarrier channels to broadcast time-sensitive text and data to multiple locations.
Another service introduced in 1991 was called US Bankline. PR Newswire partnered with Federal News Service to transmit the full text of testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., regarding major banking reforms. The service provided transcripts of congressional banking hearings as well as all banking-related news releases from banks, financial institutions, and government agencies that were carried on PR Newswire. The US Bankline service also allowed subscribers to post responses and announcements on an electronic bulletin board.
PR Newswire began offering a new clipping service in 1995 called eWatch. This new service gave clients the capability of tracking what was said about them on the Internet, in electronic messages posted in public discussion groups and on commercial bulletin boards. The service proved popular, and in 2000 PR Newswire acquired eWatch, the company that provided the service, from WAVO Corp.
By 1997 PR Newswire had created a web site that could be used by journalists to access corporate news releases. A “Today’s News” section contained all news releases from the previous 72 hours. Visitors to the site could search the database by industry, company, stock symbol, and state. Another section, “Company News,” offered a searchable database containing one year’s worth of corporate news releases. PR Newswire subsequently upgraded its web site and created a journalists-only PRN Press Room site in addition to the PR Newswire home page.
With the exponential growth of the Internet and e-mail in the second half of the 1990s, PR Newswire made a series of acquisitions that enabled it to offer a range of new, interactive services to its clients. These acquisitions included ProfNet in 1996, NEWSdesk International in 1998, Two-Ten Communications in 1999, and eWatch in 2000. ProfNet is a service that connects journalists with experts in different fields. Following its acquisition, ProfNet continued to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of PR Newswire. The acquisition of eWatch expanded PR Newswire’s core business into online measurement and results monitoring. Using eWatch, customers could track hits, rumors, perceptions, and discussions of their companies and products on the Internet.
The acquisition of NEWSdesk International and Two-Ten Communications was part of an international expansion strategy for PR Newswire. NEWSdesk International is a service that allows the tracking of online news release activity. It was merged into PR News wire’s European operations. Two-Ten was the largest distributor of corporate news in the United Kingdom. It gave PR Newswire a base for expanding into the public and investor relations markets in Europe. Following the acquisition of Two-Ten for $27.2 million, it was merged with NEWSdesk into PRN Europe.
In 1999 PR Newswire partnered with two other firms, PR Services Inc. and Computer Directory Service, to offer a quick and inexpensive news release service for smaller companies mainly in high-tech fields. PR Services would provide news release writing services through its online Press Release Factory, where client companies could provide basic information and have their news release written for them. PR Newswire then provided distribution to media and financial companies. Computer Directory Service, an Internet directory of technology companies in Michigan, provided a pool of potential clients.
Also in 1999 PR Newswire added video news release services and launched the investor relations web site service vIRtual IQ. vIRtual IQ allowed companies to provide financial data online on web pages developed and housed by PR Newswire. Traffic was driven to the site through hot links on other high-traffic investment-related web sites.
Having founded the industry, PR Newswire focuses on improving it through today’s instant communications mechanisms. We provide the latest in multimedia tools from Conference Calls on the Web and video news releases to complete investor relations web sites and the cybercasting of press conferences, annual meetings and events. Every re-lease and photo is sent to hundreds of premier online data-bases, web sites and online trading sites including our own highly popular home page and the journalists-only PRN Press Room web site.
- PR Newswire is founded in New York City by Herbert Muschel, the originator of TV Guide.
- PR Newswire is acquired by Western Union Corpo-ration.
- United News & Media purchases PR Newswire from Western Union.
- PR Newswire acquires the two largest remaining local public relations wires, Southwest Newswire in Dallas and Public Relations News Service in Chicago.
- PR Newswire acquires Internet monitoring service, eWatch, from WAVO Corp.
In March 2000 Charles H. Morin became president and CEO of PR Newswire. He had joined PR Newswire in 1989 as its chief financial officer and had served in 1999 as president of the company’s American division. Morin replaced Ian Capps, who had served as president and CEO of PR Newswire since 1991, capping a media career that spanned more than four decades.
According to the 1999 annual report of its parent company, United News & Media, PR Newswire enjoyed good growth in the United States as well as internationally. PR Newswire’s revenues increased by 32 percent during 1999. The company was making good progress online and was in the process of establishing a leadership position in Europe. In its nearly 50 years of existence, PR Newswire has evolved from a local wire service based in New York City to an international information distributor and Internet company. As new technologies have impacted the way news and information are distributed to the news media and other organizations, PR Newswire has grown and expanded to offer cutting-edge news services.
PRN Europe (United Kingdom).
Business Wire; Medialink; Canada NewsWire Ltd.
Bottoms, David, “Who Says What about Your Company,” Industry Week, November 6, 1995, p. 51.
“Charles Morin to Succeed Ian Capps as CEO of PR Newswire,” PR Newswire, May 31, 2000.
Davis, Riccardo A., “Fast Facts by
Fax: PR Wire Services Expand Business,” Philadelphia Business Journal, April 2, 1990, p. 17B.
“Ian Capps,” Television Digest, November 4, 1991, p. 9.
Miles, J.B., “Firms Turn to VSAT for New Broadcasting Network,” PC Week, June 26, 1989, p. 54.
“New US Bankline Service Covers Proposed Banking Legislation,” Online, September 1991, p. 12.
Noack, David, “Corporate Press Release Web Sites,” Editor & Publisher, May 17, 1997, p. 34.
“PR Newswire Acquires Internet Monitor eWatch from WAVO Corp.,” PR Newswire, January 25, 2000.
“PR Newswire Buys UK News Service,” Editor & Publisher, June 12, 1999, p. 24.
Smith, Jennette, “Small Firms Can Get PR Power on the Web,” Grain’s Detroit Business, March 15, 1999, p. 13.
—David P. Bianco