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The Pros and Cons of Free vs. Paid Press Release Distribution Services

You’ve written a press release about your business, or your new digital product, or an event you’re hosting, and you want the widest exposure possible.

You have a big decision to make.

Paid services like PRNewswire and PRWeb offer tiered pricing, depending on how widely they distribute the release. If you buy the best package, it can cost you several hundred dollars, even if you write the release yourself.

But those free press release services are just too tempting. How do you know whether you should pay or use a free service?

Why Press Releases Are Still Important

Many so-called “experts” are saying that we no longer need press releases or that they’re worthless. Don’t believe that for a minute.

Most major publicity, especially in top-tier media outlets, doesn’t originate from press releases. It’s the result of a customized pitch specifically for that media outlet. But journalists who are covering your story, and consumers who are visiting your website, often expect to find press releases there so they don’t have to hunt for information about your news.

Posting a press release online also ensures that it’s part of the record.

Here’s a quick primer that will explain the pros and cons of free and paid services. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting.

Advantages of the Free Services

Do a Google search for “free press release services” and you’ll find a dizzying array of options. You can choose from more than 50.

There are over 50 free press release distribution services.

Here are three advantages to using a free service:

  1. You can’t afford a paid service.
  2. You’re willing to promote your press release aggressively on the social media sites. A release with an enticing headline, helpful or entertaining content, and a powerful call to action can still pull traffic and sell your products and services if many people share it.
  3. The release includes minor news that you simply want to get on the record. If media outlets and bloggers don’t pick it up, no big deal.
Disadvantages of the Free Services

You get what you pay for. Some people learn this too late, after they’ve posted to one of the free sites and they receive little traffic and no orders or calls from the media. Here are five disadvantages to using the free sites.

  • Many of the free services don’t distribute your release. They exist primarily to park the release at their websites and entice writers to pay for upgrades. Those sites also make money from Google Adsense ads.
  • Your press release might include numerous links, including Google ads, that encourage readers to click off the page.
On a free press release distribution service, your release could include ads and links to your competitors.
  • Your press release page might include a Google ad from one of your competitors.
  • Most free services don’t provide statistics that will tell you how many people viewed the release.
  • Most of these free sites don’t have a help desk. If you post the release and discover later that there’s a typo in your phone number or website address, you’re stuck.

Bottom Line: Don’t use a free service if you’re announcing major news. If you must, try PRLog.org, Free-Press-Release.com or PR.com but don’t expect results.

Advantages of the Paid Services
  • At first, these services look expensive. But the advantages can be well worth it.
  • Most distribute releases to online news sites, portals, databases and search engines. They also send your releases to websites devoted to specific industries.
  • You can choose to have your press release sent to media in a city, state, region or country. This can hold down your costs.
  • Journalists can subscribe to the RSS feeds at these sites, according to the topics they cover.
  • In addition to distribution, paid sites usually offer writing services for an extra fee.
  • Most have an easy-to-reach help desk.
  • They offer statistics that show, for example, how many people viewed your release, where it appeared online, the number of unique visitors, and monthly page views.
  • Some paid services offer multimedia formats that allow you to blend audio, text, logos, photos and related documents into a dynamic HTML platform.
Disadvantage of the Paid Services

The only disadvantage is that, despite the steep price you’ve paid, you might not get the type of major publicity you’re expecting. I hear this complaint frequently.

That’s why it’s important to send a customized pitch to journalists and then offer a link to the press release where people can find more details.

Vertical Market Distribution Services

If you want to distribute your press release only to media and others in a specific industry, or to specific types of audiences, take advantage of the many press release distribution services for vertical markets, some free and some paid.

Here are just a few examples:

Religion News Service

The newswire of corporate social responsibility

Hispanic PR Wire
Part of PR Newswire


Distributes environmental news

Sends releases to health care professionals

For college press releases and wire services

If you’re interested in a press release distribution service for your industry, your trade association might be able to suggest one. Or do a search for [press release distribution service] + [(your industry)] and see what you can find.

What Results Have You Seen?

If you’ve used a free or paid service, explain which one, and the kind of results you’ve received. Was the company easy to deal with? What problems did you encounter?

This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.


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