For those of you that read my blog often, you will note that this is very strong language for me. But I use it because it is absolutely true.
In my recent review of a little upstart company, MyMediaRoom, I drew the ire of Dee Rambeau, who offers a much more established product, the PRNewswire MediaRoom. He especially didn’t like the name MyMediaRoom, which given the similarities in the names is understandable. However, his concerns in comments, and offer to learn about, as he says, “the power of our web content management platform,” lead me to explain more fully why I find a company like MyMediaRoom so attractive.
The Media Room Contenders
There are a number of other established press or media room brands, including the PRNewswire MediaRoom (according to Dee, $2,000 to $10,00 per year), the Vocus Newsroom, Tek International’s TekMedia, iPressroom's offering, and I am sure a few others that I just don’t know about. If you do, please add them to the comments section.
All of them that I have looked at online, except the upstart MyMediaRoom (pricing), require you to take a “test drive” before they will even start talking with you about pricing. Or as Dee says, “everything about our vended solution, including price, is available for the asking.” In other words, they need to qualify you and sell you on their features first. Frankly, I have always hated that model. I want to look at a service and its competition and compare features and pricing first, before coming for a demo or other controlling mechanism.
Why Content Management Systems Fall Short
Don’t get me wrong, these content management systems are a great leap forward from the days when the PR department had to run everything through IT and the timeliness of information suffered. However, my biggest problem with these offerings is three-fold:
1) They are too expensive for most non-profit and smaller companies;
2) they aren’t transparent about pricing; and,
3) They don’t organize information all that well for the digital age and still have too many controls for the average reporter (admittedly, not completely the content management vendors fault).
My Life as a Reporter and Editor
Let me share why I have come to some of these conclusions, from the point of view of a journalist. From 1999, until last December 2006, I served as the editor for a B-to-B trade publication. In that vocation I have viewed literally hundreds of media rooms (and bad press releases), and most of the time they completely frustrated me. Usually, it became easier to just call the public relations person and get what I needed directly from them. This cut down the time (my time) that it took to gather all the resources from their online media room – if they were there to begin with. This derails the purpose of a media room, in my opinion.
For instance, the press release might be great, something I was interested in using, but then I needed art (photos, etc.) in order to run it in the magazine. And not just any art, it had to be 300 dpi or better and large format, usually 1800 x 1200 or greater. So, now I had to head off to the photo gallery to find the photos that fit the story, which inevitably meant that I had to register to get them, which I hated. And even when I registered, it was often impossible to find which photos went with which story, or the photos were small, too small to use.
Multimedia Integrated Newsrooms
Why can’t online news rooms bring all of this together? Why can't they allow some photo thumbnails with the release that leads to the larger versions? And while you are at it, add some flash video in as well so I can watch a clip of your video without opening another program. Then allow me to download it as a Windows Media Player, Real Player or Quicktime file to use as I need. But also include an embed code, if I am blogger or other online news site, so that I can add your video to my site with downloading a thing. Then you can measure who is using the video with a simple Technorati search, or via your monitoring service.
My point is that all of the multimedia assets, photography, video and audio should be seen directly with the press releases, and vice versa. In essence, the media room should become a bunch of mini Web sites for each story idea, with the ability to add corresponding links out to information off of the site (say to a purpose-built delicious site).
I do like Todd Defren’s ideas to add social media elements to the newsroom, such as RSS feeds for releases and social networking widgets like Digg and Delicious. And he has put together a beta version of such a newsroom at Shift, with the able assistance of Shannon Whitley of PRX Builder.
However, my real problem lies with the fact that you have to go to two or more places in the media room to get the information and assets you need to complete your story. His template doesn’t really address that problem in my view.
Now, I understand why media rooms have evolved the way that they have. Most companies want full control over everything in the newsroom, they want to know who downloaded something and why, and they don’t want misuse of their assets. However, the current lock-down system is really untenable. There has to be a better way. I just don’t know who will get the job done first.