STUDY: Journalists Spend Less Than One Minute Reading Each Press Release

Press releases

They all blend together at a certain point…

We have a new candidate for least surprising survey conclusions via comms firm Greentarget: journalists like your press releases nice and short.

No, shorter than that. Shorter…shorter…almost there…

This one hits a little too close to home for us. Key stat: the average participant in this survey received approximately 50 releases every week–and spent less than one minute reading each one he or she opened.

You’ll click through and spend about three minutes reading this post though, won’t you?

First the good news: more than a third of the 100 journalists surveyed said they still get story ideas from press releases and 88% take some value from them (though the number for us lowly trade bloggers is much higher). Still, brevity is best:

  • 68 percent of journalists say they “just want the facts” or the who, where, why and when
  • 53 percent said they’d prefer that you deliver that info in bullet point form–and 36 percent are at least open to the idea of presenting it that way


No, they’re not waiting on a press release

Did we mention the importance of subject lines?

  • 79 percent said subject lines greatly affect whether they will open your email
  • That said, 70 percent spend less than one minute on each message they do open

So where do they find stories?

Press Release 1

And which kinds of releases do they find most valuable? Thought leadership: those containing some form of survey, case study or other original data source. Product launches and staffing announcements, on the other hand…

Now some specifics. What would make the process more productive?

  • 44 percent prefer to receive releases in the morning (though just as many say time doesn’t matter)
  • 46 percent are open to receiving releases on Twitter

OK, now what do they NOT want? Here are the least valuable aspects of each release:

  • Boilerplate language: do you really need to include all that technical stuff at the bottom?
  • Quotes: let’s face it, they’re usually about as revealing as a brick wall
  • The lead: seriously though, please get to the point

And their four biggest annoyances:

  • Releases that aren’t relevant to the beats they cover
  • Releases that aren’t relevant to their readers
  • Bad writing in releases
  • Releases that go on too long without making a point

As obvious as our headline may seem, we can tell you based on the many, many releases we receive every day that the point just isn’t hitting home.

Aaron Schoenherr, founding partner of Greentarget, on the survey’s main takeaway for PR:

“I think the key takeaway is that 23 percent of the journalists we surveyed tell us that the contact information on a press release is what they rely on most to produce their stories.

That’s a problem. As a profession, we need to start rethinking how we approach, and in the process protect, a fundamental aspect of our business.

Journalists are telling us that much of what we produce isn’t all that useful. We should embrace that complaint and challenge ourselves to evolve in response. For us, that means opening a dialogue with clients around ways they might explore a new approach and, in the process, strengthen their relationships with journalists as a result.”

What do we think? How much of this is news?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.