A while back Manuel sent around an internal email asking what everyone thought about Newsvetter. At the time, my head was filled with thoughts about PR spam. So, when I looked at the service by following the link in Manuel’s email, I thought it was a service designed to combat PR spam. I promptly tweeted a question that popped into my head. Andrew Fowler, Newsvetter’s creator, saw that tweet and reached out to me. We set up a phone call to discuss the service, and I learned that I missed the boat entirely. Newsvetter does have a PR spam fighting quality, but that’s more like a cool side effect than it’s focus.

What is Newsvetter and how does it work?

Newsvetter is a service enables story pitchers to submit ideas to the media through a structured process. The structure was based on some research Andrew did with media to determine what are the common criteria for evaluating a story. Media, and media only, can then comment on and rate the ideas as a vetting process in a closed environment that essentially works as a backchannel (visible to the pitchers).

While the service does connect people, the truth is that the service doesn’t need to have a ton of members to be useful. PR professionals can use the story brief form as a template for writing pitches, which is made from the common criteria Andrew surfaced from interviewing the media. Journalists and bloggers can require people pitch them through the service to guarantee that their required questions are answered and to solicit opinions from other media contacts. Naturally, as the service expands networking and reputation can play a larger role. PR firms may one day point to their Newsvetter rating, which is based on their percentage of stories that are picked up, as validation during their new business pitches.

What are the alternatives to Newsvetter?

I don’t know of another service dedicated to vetting news. I have seen attempts from the media to shift their relationship with the PR world using alternate channels like Twitter and RSS. Stowe Boyd asked for pitches via Twitter. Marshall Kirkpatrick asked for an OPML. So did the Blog Herald. There is a clear motivation on the part of the media to filter the ever increasing level of noise that competes for their attention. Some of them have taken that matter into their own hands.

While there is clear motivation for PR professionals to increase the number of pick ups they get by improving their pitching process, I haven’t seen a push from the PR side to improve their targeting and quality of their pitches. That indicates to me that the system is more broken for the media than for PR. And, if change is going to occur, it will likely be mandated by the media who is strongly motivated to improve their focus. It’s possible that this problem could be solved by the individual media professional defining their personal pitching preferences to be carried out over existing communication channels, which would be a kind of alternative to Newsvetter.

What’s the bigger picture here?

While much of this post talks about Newsvetter, the truth is that there is a bigger, underlying force at work here. Just like the media world has changed from a broadcast model to a social one, so has the media pitching process. I can’t say whether or not Newsvetter will be the winner in a battle against the broadcast press release. But, if it isn’t Newsvetter, it will likely be a similar service. I’m going to try Newsvetter and share my results here on the Voce Nation. I’m also going to explore other avenues until something sticks. I’m exploring because the bigger story here is that while the spray and pray method for PR is easy, it isn’t the most effective.