Is PRWeb Just Spamming the Whole Internet Now?

Yesterday we ran a cautionary tale about how some shady stock trader fooled almost everyone on the Internet (and made a bunch of easy money) by penning a PRWeb release about a non-existent Google acquisition and manipulating stock prices for a couple of hours. In asking the Big Questions, we wondered whether readers place too much faith in digital press releases and how much we should blame PRWeb itself for the mixup.

Last night, the SearchEngineLand blog followed up, exploring the issue with relish in a post titled “How PRWeb Helps Distribute Crap Into Google & News Sites”. Fun!

We’re not out to besmirch the Vocus/PRWeb brand: We’ve used it, and we’re fairly sure the vast majority of our readers have too. But blogger Danny Sullivan wonders whether PRWeb truly has the power to review all press releases and ensure their “integrity”, and we share his skeptical curiosity.

Of course, distribution is the service’s key selling point—for a one-time fee, reps can ensure that their releases will appear on a wide range of sites both mainstream and obscure/legally dubious. We’ll say this, though: The fact that official “press releases” hyping “Lowest Price Viagra” from “LICENSED and LEGAL European online pharmacy” moved through PRWeb’s filter intact and ended up on the websites of otherwise respectable “distributor” publications like The Houston Chronicle may tell you something about the intensity of the organization’s fact-checking process.

An additional “premium” fee will see users’ releases forwarded to the likes of the Associated Press, theoretically landing in the inboxes of scoop-hungry reporters for The New York Times or USA Today. In fact, we have a feeling that’s exactly what happened to the fake Google story.

The writer gets into more detail about the ways in which Google News’s inept spam detection enables this sort of behavior, but we’d love to hear from some PR insiders: Do you use PRWeb and/or related services on a regular basis? Are they crucial tools or useless artifacts? How can their producers cut down on the sort of embarrassing fakery that we all witnessed yesterday?