At the end of 2003, we completed a survey of 50 randomly sampled radio newsrooms in the top-50 markets to gauge how stations use audio news releases and other information provided to them by outside sources. Results of the survey found 96% of newsrooms report that outside sources are used as part of their newsgathering and air these sources as part of their newscasts an average of 4.46 times per day.
An audio news release (ANR) is a term used in the public relations industry to describe a service that encompasses a fully produced 60-second report with a sound bite from a spokesperson. ANRs are used to reach a wide audience of stations, typically in a breaking news situation and when time is too limited to set up interviews in a radio media tour. Radio media tours are used in circumstances where a topic needs more explanation than a 60 second piece would allow and a spokesperson has time to set aside several hours to complete the interviews. Each of these services is matched to the client’s message, where it will have the most impact.
While only 19% of surveyed stations said that they rarely use “canned audio,” each stated that they would use such audio in a breaking news situation or when they would be unable to get the audio elsewhere for a story they are airing. According to Mike Sleyman at WDNC-AM in Raleigh, “I like to review hard copy first and then call back for sound bites, if it’s with someone that I wouldn’t be able to set up myself, especially in a breaking news situation.” Dan Restione from KIRO-AM in Seattle says, “We look at everything that we are offered: press releases, news wires, call-in news tips, PR info, and we make news judgments according to what is relevant to our listening audience.” So, according to stations surveyed, PR releases from trusted sources with strong news content are part of the rolodex of resources station personnel use for their newsgathering on a regular basis.
“It is all in the way a story is pitched,” comments Lynn Harris Medcalf from News Generation, “Many stations may say they have policies against taking ANRs, because the term ANR is a PR term, not a media term. If a compelling or breaking news story is pitched from a credible source with a good track record of providing good news stories, especially if the story has a local tie-in that will impact listeners of that station, it will be accepted and used by stations and networks.”
In other words, if audio news releases are targeted and provide good, timely news material, stations will use them as part of their on-air broadcasts. While not all stations will necessarily use the audio portion of a news release, news releases do find a home on stations across the U.S if they are targeted toward a local audience and provide timely, compelling information. The survey found 46% newsrooms stating that timeliness is the number one aspect that determines usage, and 44% said that localized information is the most important aspect of a news release.
Fifty randomly sampled newsrooms in the top-50 markets were interviewed in December of 2003. Full survey results are available by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.