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SEO PR - What is the difference between aggregators, newswires, news sites and portals?

Elemental Communications (Social Media Portal) - 08 May 2006

SEO PR - What is the difference between aggregators, newswires, news sites and portals?

To fully take advantage of the opportunities afforded by SEO PR, marketers need to understand the difference between the variety of online news services on offer, writes Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental Communications

Marketers and PRs need to understand the difference between aggregators, newswires, news sites and portals in order to reach a better percentage of their targeted audience.  Whether it’s by general oversight or lack of industry knowledge, far too few professionals know the difference and could almost certainly be using these services more effectively.  Complacency is dangerous, and in a rapidly developing industry time should be set aside by marketers and PRs to understand different and/or new ways of connecting with people.

Aggregators, newswires, news sites and portals offer different services and ultimately reach different audiences whether they are search engines, news search engines, the target audience and/or the media.  Some focus on elements of the aforementioned better than others, so it must be determined how each works in order to select the best service for the kind of communications, press release and/or messaging that is to be communicated.  All communications should be highly targeted and focused and not “scatter gunned” so that the target audience is reached in a manner that is on their individual level – this we all know.Photograph, Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental

However, there are literally hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of each service out there, some will be designed for specific industries, some will not perform as well as others and some will hit the mark.  Start researching and compiling your own spreadsheet of these, what works for you and what doesn’t.

So what are considered some of the most popular ones and what do they do?  A very brief outline of what each does, and some of the more popular services follow.  This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, and there is much research to be undertaken as a developing channel in online communications unfolds.

News Aggregators
A news aggregator is perhaps more commonly known as a feed reader or aggregator, and is software that is used to bring together, display and syndicate news (through RSS and Atom for example).


News Sites
A news site, is just as it says; a site that has news.  More traditionally, a news site would be a site such as BBC, Reuters, Sky and The New York Times, but can now include news engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo!  Some sites can be personalised to show an individuals news preference upon loading – great for encouraging reader loyalty.


A newswire is a service that distributes news.  Who and to how many it gets distributed to can vary greatly not only between vendors but on a monetary basis.  Some provide a free and basic service in addition to a more comprehensive blanket at varying costs.  Your news can be sent to journalists, media professionals, publications, opt-in recipients, search engines and news search engines.  


In the simplest terms, a portal is catalogue.  It is designed to be used as a first point of call on the Internet, and can be generic i.e. AOL, MSN, Yahoo! or industry specific i.e. football365.  A portal is a gateway to other sites, and most often provides a search engine, personalisation, a forum and sometimes free email accounts.


As with anything, it’s important to measure performance.  It’s much easier to self-monitor online coverage than offline, which you can do initially via web analytics and news alerts (such as Google News Alerts, Highbeam and Yahoo! News Alerts).  A decent web analytics service is ideal, as you can see how traffic arrived at the site, what it did when it got there and how it left.  News alerts will alert you via email to stories that contain your key words and phrases; the only downside is they will alert you to old stories if the site it is hosted on is recently updated.

Below are some of the most popular newswires and distribution services we see being used and the services they provide, which is by no means representative of all of their offerings:

PR Newswire
PR Newswire distributes releases to journalists, search engines and News engines.  They also do video and audio web casting, and offer free editorial support.
PR Web has a free press release distribution in addition to a paid option (both with an RSS option) that will send your news to journalists, search engines and News engines.  You have the ability to add images, video and audio clips – they can also turn your story into a podcast.

Sourcewire is a paid service that will send your release to journalists and publications.  Just recently they have made advancements towards SEO PR (Search Engine Optimisation PR – see previous article) by adding embedded links.

It seems that the UK is always five steps behind as far as implementing new technology in online communication tools is concerned.  It has taken until first quarter 2006 for UK newswires to start taking notice of SEO PR, but is now making some great first steps (i.e. embedded links in press releases). is perhaps the most progressive service out there, and although not a wire and by no means perfect, they are definitely leading the way with technology (detailed analysis, podcast and I guess soon to be released vodcast).

So, with so many services out there – how do you know which ones to use?  In short, lots of research, trial and error and having solid off and online measurement and analysis in place (this is especially necessary with online services that incorporate search marketing public relations).  To quickly evaluate services read the “About Us” section, do some background research and just for starters, asking and answering:

  • How long have they been established?
  • What is their credibility and how did they establish this?
  • Who are they affiliated with, is it easy to get in touch with them and what is support like?
  • What are the pros and cons of using this particular service? (i.e. cost, scope)
  • What stories are currently live, what service was used and how did they perform?

A quick and easy way to locate services is to reverse engineer your competitors, see where they are online and ascertain whether being in the same and similar resources is going to be beneficial to you (but don’t stop there, more importantly, you need to be where they are not – these are the resources that really make the difference).  

As with your media list, you should nurture and fine tune your list of communication services and tools (which is exactly what news aggregators, newswires, news sites and portals are), and build relationships with each where possible.  Understand how they work and why, drill down and if they don’t deliver what you expect they should reach out and get a dialogue going, perhaps they will accommodate if steered in the right direction.

Online communications should not be looked to as an alternative to more traditional methods – but as another way of reaching the same audience you have always connected with.  It is undeniable that the media landscape is changing, people are no longer receiving their news in the same way as they did 10 years ago (heck, even one year ago – think Blogs, news engines and RSS), today it’s all about choice – and not providing that choice and presenting ore options and choice to your audience is not going to serve you or your client well.  You should look to integrate your offline news with your online, so as it is appearing on desks in hard copy, it’s viewable on their desktops.

In addition to letting your audience choose how they digest information, you are turning search into research.  The beauty of the Internet, is that it information will always be there for people to learn from and engage with; it also provides a record and timeline in addition to links that will ultimately boost search rankings (a whole other story).

In summary, marketers and PR professionals need to be more pro-active and responsive to an ever changing environment, research and then start implementing new communication tools for their own benefit and their clients.  Understanding the difference between aggregators, news sites, newswires and portals is a great first step building and/or defending brands across traditional and digital media.

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