Recycled Friday: Is £2.5 billion really spent on press releases in the UK?

I was inspired by the following comment from @adcontrarian in his latest blog post:

Because I am a lazy bastard and the thought of writing five posts a week is a constant source of terror, I have decided to introduce a new policy around here. From now on, on Fridays,  I’m going to recycle old posts that I like and that are still relevant. Today is our first Recycled Friday.

What a great idea. Having nearly 600 posts over 7 years gives me a good back catalogue to plunder.

Without further ado, here is a post I wrote five years ago – has much changed? You be the judge.


New survey conducted by Benchmark Research on behalf of Glide Technologies has thrown up some interesting, if not entirely unsurprising, results about the PR industry in the UK today.

The full report is here:

Glide PR survey

However, the one item that caught my eye was the calculation that  £2.5bn is spent on press releases in the UK. This based on the survey finding that 39pc of PR professionals time is spent on creating, distributing, and following up on press releases – and the estimated total size of the UK PR industry at £6.5bn. Couple that with only 32% of releases received by the media being of genuine interest, then I calculate that means £1.7bn is being wasted on irrelevant press releases.

Although I’d take this calculation with a pinch of salt, it would be fair to say that an awful lot of money is still being spent (and wasted) on the humble press release.

The survey also highlighted a clear discrepancy between journalists desire to be contacted by email and PRs who still overwhelmingly use the phone.

I know the reasons for both sides views. Journalists have been jaundiced by too many wasteful phone calls along the lines of “did you get my press release”, or are you attending exhibition X (see Phil Muncaster of IT Week vent his spleen re: the pre-InfoSec deluge of calls asking him whether he was going – Muncaster InfoSec rant )

On the other side, PRs often feel that they will get more “attention” by actually talking to the journalist. Though of course that still means you need a good enough story to give them.

My take on the survey as a whole is that is shows the same old values still apply to PR in terms of media relations – journalists will give the time of day to a trusted source – but even that doesn’t guarantee they will use a story. Perhaps some of that wasted £1.7bn could be spent on training PR professionals to get better at becoming trusted information sources.

Other findings below:

81% of Journalists on a desert island opt for laptop over a phone

Email remains the most popular delivery format for journalists. Fax, post, newswire, PDA and SMS all decline. RSS and IM emerge.

76% of journalists more likely to use press communication with photos etc.

89% of journalists will visit an organisation’s website most of the time when writing about them

Journalist Complaints

Poor use of email (e.g. sending large attachments) accounts for the two greatest online deterrents to journalists

Only 32% of releases received by the media are of genuine interest

73% of journalists think an organisation is ‘not media friendly’ if its online press information is poor. 60% think they’re ‘lazy’, 50% that they’re ‘incompetent’.

Research conducted by Benchmark Research.

ITV calls for ad-skip speed limit on Freeview PVR

Link: ITV calls for ad-skip speed limit on Freeview PVR – BR Bulletin – Advertising, Marketing, Media and PR news by Email – Brand Republic

ITV is clearly in a bad way – and this really smacks of desperation: "ITV has insisted that Freeview Playback boxes should be able to
fast-forward at a maximum of 16 times the normal playback speed. This
compares with 32 times for Sky+ and up to 64 times on other PVR systems."

Do they seriously think by restricting the fast forward speed on a Freeview PVR that this somehow will help them maintain advertising revenue?

The genie is out of the bottle.

Telewest HDTV – growing pains

As readers of this blog will know, we’ve had a Telewest TV Drive in the Smith household for a couple of months now. There is no question it has changed our TV viewing habits completely. Other than the news
or, in my case, a live football match, we almost always watch things in time-shift mode. My wife has certainly found the ability to record whole series and watch at a later date to be one of the great advances of 21st century living.

However, one of the reasons my wife agreed to us getting a HD television in the first place was that I’d be banging on to her about the “amazing” picture quality that we’d get. Last week she reminded me of this claim I had made – “so, where is this great HD picture quality then?”. Previously I’d pointed out that in fact there was no HD quality content to watch. That excuse ran out a few weeks ago when Telewest began offering a small selection of progs in HD and the appearance of a BBC HD Channel (admittedly mostly showing an endless loop of BBC HD trailers).

Anyway, there was enough there now for me to try out HD. Or rather to get round the very cumbersome process of getting the TV Drive to output HD pictures. In simple terms, you have to select how you want the TVDrive Box to output the signal eg 4:3, widescreen, HD HDMI, etc. When you select the HD HDMI option, you are then told that it will now test to see if your TV can accept an HDMI signal – trouble is you then have to switch the TV to accept input from a new source ie if you are currently outputting 4:3 on Scart you have to switch to HDMI. Once the test is over, you then have to switch the TV back to Scart – and if you are happy with that, switch back to HDMI and then push the Text button to confirm the setting – if you don’t do it in time, it reverts back to your original setting – and you have to go through the whole process again.

The reason for going into such tedious detail is to spell out how tricky it is to get the HD output working – and I vaguely know what I’m doing. Also, I bet many people will be scared by the worrying warning that says if you try setting HDMI output without being connected to a HD Ready TV, you’ll lose your picture forever and Telewest will kill your first born – or something like that.

Anyway – now that I’d got the HD output working, I tested out BBC HD to see what the difference in picture quality was like – and yes, it is better, but not sure it will be seen by people as being such a vast difference between what they see now.

The other annoyance was that if you then switched to a non-HD channel, you get the picture in 4:3 mode ie with a big black stripe in either side of the picture. I tried using the aspect ratio control to get it to fill the screen – and this where I discovered the fact that you can’t currently adjust the aspect ratio in HD mode with the Telewest box.

According to Telewest: “Unlike standard definition television, HDTV has a native widescreen
format, and your HD television expects to see a widescreen picture. To compensate for this, the TVDrive team chose to add black bars to the left and right of a 4:3 SD channel. We did this for two reasons: (1) our research showed that the majority of people prefer to watch 4×3 programmes
without the image being stretched and (2) it is necessary to keep the video and the graphics plane in tight alignment so that interactive applications such as the multi-screen sports coverage from the BBC looks correct. We understand that many users would like us to offer the ability to zoom
or stretch a 4:3 picture (especially for widescreen programmes shown in 14×9 format) and we’re looking into how best to do this. As stated above,because of the complexity of keeping overlaid graphics in alignment with video this will take us some time to implement.

I have to say I was surprised by reason (1) – perhaps its the Scotsman in me, but I much prefer to have my screen real estate utilised rather than only have some of it displayed. Having said that, there are clearly technical issues around why they have done what they have done.

But – to sum up – we now have the choice of watching everything in non-HD mode (which at least means we get to watch everything in full screen, but defeats the purpose of an HD television) – or watching everything with HDMI output – and having most of the channels with a clipped and unadjustable aspect ratio.

Or I end up going through the previously described rigamarole everytime we want to switch between HDMI and normal – which I know will drive my wife up the wall.

No doubt these are just small stumbles on the way to our nirvana-like HD future – but for the moment, its bloody annoying…..

Telewest TV Drive – first look

Took delivery this morning of our shiny new Telewest TV Drive. Clearly viewing habits in the Smith household are about to change forever.

We had a very helpful Telewest engineer who gave us a quick 5 min demonstration of all the new features. I’d read a few reports that said the Telewest TV Drive would not be as user friendly as Sky+ – having never used Sky+ I can’t comment on its ease of use – but the Telewest device seems pretty easy to me. And it works! Freezing live TV, etc is all very straightforward – but the ability to record 2 channels simultaneously while watching a third is very cool. A nice big 160GB hard drive should give 80 hours of recording time. And its HD ready. Obviously not much HD content available yet, but the HD picture quality is v. impressive. Roll on the World Cup!

One thing I hadn’t realised is that you can actually transfer content from the hard drive to an external DVD recorder. I’d assumed for copyright reasons, they wouldn’t allow you to do this – in fact I need to look at the back of the device to see what other outputs it has.

I’ll report back further after a few more days of road testing – but first impressions are very good.

The TV revolution has begun.


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