What’s the Deal with Wire Services?

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by Edward M. Yang

There’s a lot of misconception out there about what wire services are, how they work and what they can do for you.

Not having a clear idea of the benefits and limitations of wire services can end up costing you a lot more money that you need to spend.

Q: What is a “wire service”?

You may have heard the term “news just crossing the wires” on TV or the radio. From a public relations standpoint, companies can put out press releases on a service called a wire service. The wire service then distributes the press release to the world and it officially is “live”.

Some notable wire service companies include PR Newswire, Business Wire, Marketwire and PRWeb. There are quite a few others out there, but for the most part these four offer a good cross section.

Q: What’s the difference between the wire service companies?

This is the $64,000 question. You would think the more expensive the wire service, the more effective it is. Unfortunately the answer isn’t that simple.

The short answer is, it depends. It depends on a) your budget and b) your goals.

If you have a fairly large PR budget, going with a larger wire service such as PR Newswire or Business Wire can be beneficial.

BUT that doesn’t mean the lower cost wire services have nothing to offer.

While it is true that more of the top journalists subscribe to PR Newswire or Business Wire, that may mean very little in the end, because…

Q: How effective are wire services?

…it is debatable just how effective a wire service is in getting you press.

A common rookie mistake is to think that PR is just writing a press release and slapping it on the wire service, then sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring by breathless reporters.

Unfortunately the reality is completely different.

The average journalist today is slammed with information. Hundreds of pitches emailed daily. Constant wire service distributions of press releases. Phones ringing with PR people on the other end. Tweets and Facebook posts.

The fact is, if you’re relying on a wire service to get you media coverage, you’ll be severely disappointed.


-Officially makes an announcement or news “live” or public
-Keeps your customers, partners, stakeholders, investors updated on your company
-Builds a public record of consistent news and progress
-Some sites will pick up releases off the wires and run it almost word for word


-After the recent Google formula change, very few of the wire service postings are ranked at all by Google (although Business Wire claims theirs is the only one to have survived this change)
-The high end services can be VERY expensive, easily $1,000 per release or more
-Doesn’t help you get press coverage with target reporters
-Lulls you into a false sense of progress for your PR initiatives



Widely considered the granddaddy of wire services, they are also the most expensive. Most journalists pay attention to PR Newswire if it’s related to their beat. National distribution in the US plus a photo or two can easily run you over $1,500 per release. Reporting features are quite robust. Recommended for larger companies or publicly traded companies.

Wire services charge by the first 400 words with additional charges for each 100 words after that.


Business Wire is about as well-respected as PR Newswire while slightly less expensive. Like PR Newswire, they charge for photo distribution and have different rates for different distributions. National distribution can run you maybe 25% less than PR Newswire. Recommended for mid- to large-sized companies or publicly traded companies.


Marketwire hits the sweet spot of distribution breadth while not being quite so expensive. Rates are about 50% less than the top two. Marketwire is a good choice for companies seeking wider distribution but without the budget for the top two.


There are many other cheap or free wire services around, but PR Web is now part of Vocus, a large media company, and thus likely more reputable and reliable. The cheapest package starts from a low $80 flat, with tiered upgrades up to over $400. Unlike the others, their fee isn’t based on word count. They also allow you to post a photo free of charge. Reporting leaves something to be desired; the web clips simply direct you to Google News. Recommended for start ups, entrepreneurs and announcements that aren’t that “important”.


One account executive from a wire service firm that i won’t name told me that the dirty secret most don’t know is that the level of distribution within the US doesn’t really make a difference in terms of pick up. In other words, whether you spend $1,200 on US1 National or $400 on California, the pick up will be about the same. From my experience this seems to be the case, but your mileage may vary.

Your best bet if you use one of the top 2 services is to use a state distribution and pick a few microlists that are highly targeted to your industry.


Wire services are a means to an end, NOT an end in itself.

They are simply tools to help you achieve your PR goals. They shouldn’t be confused as “PR” in its entirety.

A good PR firm will be invaluable in helping you navigate your choices. And remember, nothing substitutes a PR firm’s ability to reach out personally to press contacts on your behalf.

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