Why Medium Won’t Revolutionize the Press Release

The blogging platform Medium has been shaking up the digital publishing world in the last year or so. If you don’t know Medium, you should. It lets writers publish stories and other work on its beautifully designed website, and it helps readers find those stories by optimizing posts and by curating and promoting them to its fast-growing audience.

And because it’s a self-publishing, um, medium, lots of organizations are using it to push out information they’d traditionally have published on their own websites or via press releases. The White House is using Medium to publish things like President Obama’s State of the Union Speech and the entire 2016 budget. Mitt Romney used it to announce he won’t run for president and lots of entrepreneurs have used it to discuss their successes, and failures, in the business world.

These intriguing developments have, perhaps inevitably, led to lots of speculation about how Medium could revolutionize all sorts of media — including the press release. We’re not buying it. As curious as we are about how Medium could change the world of publishing and media, here at Greentarget we’ve spent a lot of time studying how press releases work today, and we don’t see any revolution coming.

Just last year we published a report on this very question. Our “Disrupting the Press Release” study was based on a survey and a series of focus groups with journalists and it clearly demonstrated that, despite some complaints, by and large the reporters and editors we talked to said they still value press releases and even rely on them to do their jobs.

Our study also confirmed that journalists today are more inundated than ever. Based on what we heard, we can be pretty sure they don’t have the time to peruse Medium looking for news. You’re better off sending them a press release that leads with an engaging subject line, quickly delivers your news and hands them a few authentic quotes.

It may make sense for the White House to use Medium to put out news because every reporter covering the President will read and bookmark that Medium page (though the White House shows no sign of curbing its releases). But most businesses can’t command that kind of attention. If you want to get news about your enterprise into the hands of a journalist, stick to the old-fashioned press release. You don’t have to revolutionize it, just do it better.

That doesn’t mean that Medium can’t or shouldn’t play a role in your media strategy. Medium is a great place for storytelling. It lets you tell stories, especially long-form stories, to inform and engage your customers and clients. Just look at the way Ideo uses the site. The Silicon Valley-based creative firm, which works with names like Bigelow Tea and Healthy Choice to improve design and branding, uses Medium not only to talk about things like branding and specific projects, but also to give employees a chance to tell their personal stories. Reading Ideo’s collection gives the impression that it’s a thoughtful workplace populated by smart, genuine people.

Sure, Ideo is a leading-edge creative shop. But we’d argue that professional services firms are at least as well suited for an innovative forum like Medium. They have the perspective and insights that online readers crave, and they can often impart their wisdom without bias or self-promotion.

Think of Medium not as earned media but as owned media. This is a place to tell your story and have your say. Have you seen multiple customers struggling with a particular obstacle? Medium is a good place to help them (and potential new customers) see what you’ve learned about getting past it. Do you have a unique perspective on a piece of legislation that will impact your clients? Medium is a good spot for a well-written, provocative op-ed.

Finally, let’s remember that Medium is only 30 months old. That’s far too soon to predict what effects it might have on the media landscape. Maybe it will revolutionize something. But not the press release.

Pam’s experience in public relations and marketing communications spans almost two decades and a multitude of industries and sectors.

When not at work, she brings her passion to her love of languages, urban living, culture, international affairs and anything with a global context.