Early delivery: Another way to add value for subscribers

by Shannon Paul on July 17, 2008

I recently put together a plan for a social media newsroom and think I may have stumbled on new way to add extra incentive for subscribers – the ability to give them special access to the information before it posts publicly.

This may not be anything extremely new, and it may not make sense for everyone, but it makes a lot of sense for this company and I thought I should share it here. Let me know what you think.

A social media newsroom is basically an extension of a company’s website where journalists and bloggers can go to pull press releases and all the factual information, images, audio and video clips to use in their coverage.

In many ways, a social media newsroom looks and functions like a blog, and for good reason; blogs are extremely efficient in delivering information in a way that is flexible, easy to navigate and they put the most recent stuff up front.

For a primer on social media newsrooms, download SHIFT Communications’ template for a social media newsroom here: http://shiftcomm.com/, or visit Ford Motor Company’s online newsroom for a good example of what a social media newsroom looks like. If you know of other examples you wish to share, please feel free to post them in the comments.

While it’s not unusual to have RSS feeds delivering new posts to the company’s online newsroom via reader and email, in this case I thought it would help increase the incentive to subscribe if subscribers were promised early delivery of the new posts before they showed up on the public site.

Rather than having the traditional RSS feed that delivers new posts via reader and email at the same time as the post shows up publicly, this feed would deliver the company’s news to subscribers first, offering a 6-hour lead time to journalists and bloggers interested in breaking a story.

To do this, I asked Ross Johnson of 3 Point 7 Designs and co-owner of Ingenex Digital Marketing if it were even possible, since I have a strange tendency to think that I can do anything. Luckily, he said it could be done.

Basically, Ross said, you would have to have two identical sites — one private and one public. When interested visitors to the site sign up to receive automatic updates, rather than subscribing to the RSS feed for the public site, they would instead receive updates from the private one.

There would just be a little feed switcheroo. The public site could then be automated to post the information on a 6-hour delay after the identical information on the private site posts.

Since timeliness, and the ability to ‘scoop’ the competition is one way blogs and news publications add value to their readers, this way, they could have their posts up and stories filed before the release hits publicly.

But, this got me thinking that other special nuggets of information could be distributed from the private feed as a means of adding value to being a regular subscriber.

And, beyond being a regular feature to an online newsroom, bloggers, and traditional media outlets could also have the potential to do something similar, thereby giving people more incentive to subscribe to their information since they receive something over and above what is posted on the public site.

Maybe others are already doing this, I’m not sure. If so, how does it work for you? Do you foresee any problems that I may be overlooking?

Please, let me know your thoughts and many thanks in advance!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

July 17, 2008 Scott Parks 1

I’ve seen it done the other way around – where the RSS feed updates before the email alert goes out.

I wonder if you could also do a sort of private Twitter app that would have the information for subscribers first. Thinking……


July 17, 2008 Mike Volpe 2

I think this might work for big companies (like Ford) and would be a great idea for them to try and experiment with. I bet people who follow and cover large companies like this might like it, and maybe you would get a lift in subscribers.

But for most small or medium sized companies (99% of the companies in the world) no one reads their press releases and no one cares about their news. Case in point, HubSpot has about 100 subscribers for our news room feed (company news), but almost 4000 subscribers for our blog feed (general info interesting to our audience, such as marketing tips). I think SMBs should focus on how to create more compelling content (blog, video, interactive tools) to leverage inbound marketing, rather than getting 3 more people to see their press release.


July 17, 2008 shannonpaul 3

I totally agree with you, Mike!

I don’t think this is for everyone — especially small or medium sized companies that are product or service oriented.

But for companies that are in the business of generating information, or large companies that regularly make national news, I think this makes perfect sense.

By the way, I subscribe to the HubSpot blog and I think it’s great!


July 18, 2008 Theron Kelso 4

Why delay the official news release at all? Use the pre-release RSS to show news that is earlier in the editing process (not all the i’s dotted, but certainly all approvals in place) – invite subscribbers to feedback on the pre-release and improve the final offical one.


July 18, 2008 Nick Lucido 5

Steve Jobs would be shaking his head while reading this. Apple is notoriously secretive about product launches and pretty much everything else, yet they still get incredible amounts of press coverage.

Depending on the company, I think its safe to say that early delivery of information through social media channels is a great way to get the buzz going. But, in the case of Apple and other companies, it isn’t necessary and could create more problems.


July 18, 2008 David Weiner, PR Newswire 6

Shannon and Mike,

I respectfully disagree. While this could be a neat added value for a few clients, this would be incredibly problematic and illegal for many others.

Mike, if you’re saying that no one will read the release, what’s the difference if they’re sent it early?

Every company has a unique audience … therefore each company should have a unique approach to their news. An intuitive newsroom is a vital piece in the communications puzzle … you don’t need to add the words ‘social media’ to it to make it more useful and relevant. Our clients need to make their sites more navigatable AND make their content more compelling.


July 18, 2008 Chris Poterala 7

GM Europe has a good social media newsroom:



July 18, 2008 Janie Graziani 8

I’m a little confused. If you send out the early release on a feed that anyone can subscribe to, then how will anyone scoop anyone else? The release will just go live 6 hours early, for everyone who has subscribe to the early feed to see. And everyone will subscribe to the early feed instead of the regular feed.

Also, I don’t want my stuff going out without all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed — how embarrassing! For me and my company.


July 18, 2008 Janie Graziani 9

Just noticed a typo in my post — how embarrassing! Ha! Should have proofread it first.


July 18, 2008 Chris Poterala 10


I cannot imagine the cow legal would have if you opened up the content to the public, ahead of a release going out, approvals or not.


July 18, 2008 shannonpaul 11

I think your idea is very compelling and will definitely keep it in mind for future projects. There are plenty of times when we might want input from journalists/bloggers who have experience covering the company while in the process of putting together a release. Of course it would have to be a much more protected process – perhaps invitation only…

Actually, this might be a good idea for Apple since I’m not proposing that they release information early, but rather that they give those who are the most interested in receiving their information a little lead time — just a few hours. The feed release would actually post on the official release date. This way, their already evangelized fans would have the pleasure of spreading the word before the news hits publicly on the company’s Web site. How fun is that?

I don’t really think we disagree. For my purposes, this would be a value add for a small group of clients in particular with regards to putting out press materials. However, I also see the potential for bloggers and mainstream media sources to adapt this kind of system as a means of rewarding subscribers for their continued support/participation with their product/publication/blog. It’s definitely not for every company — but good strategies rarely are! ;-)

In this case, there would ONLY be an early feed, not a regular feed. All subscribers would have access to the information earlier than non-subscribers. Period. This can be done by placing the feed address from the private site into the public RSS icon that people click on to subscribe. Make sense? If not, e-mail me at and I can probably explain it a little better.

Chris, legal shouldn’t have a problem with it since the feed would actually be the official “public” release. There would simply be a delay in the posting to the public media room on the website. Legal would have already approved all the information.

Thanks to everyone for your feedback and great ideas! Keep them coming, please. I love this!


July 18, 2008 Brian Ambrozy 12

Even releasing it a few hours early to “those who are interested” inherently dilutes the entire concept of a news release at all. First of all, if it’s news, everyone is interested (anyone who would subscribe to a ‘normal’ feed, at any rate) is going to want to read it. Who decides who gets it early? The source? The subscriber? If you were a subscriber, you would of course want the early release. If you were the source, you would have to pick favorites.

Maybe I’m not clearly understanding your concept here, but I see this is as a logistical and legal headache.


July 18, 2008 Ross Johnson 13

I think there is misunderstanding of the idea (provided I understand it correctly).

All it is, is an incentive for people to subscribe to the feed. Anyone can subscribe, and the bonus is you can get the news/scoop before anyone else does.

It is value for the subscriber, and value for the company. They have more opt-in readers, better measurement of success, and the readers have a bonus over the people who are just going to visit the website on occasion.

Remember there is only one feed, the early feed. So if you subscribe to the feed you get the news sooner.


July 18, 2008 Robert Hallock 14

I’m not sure what the tizzy is over this idea. Giving subscribers your first look at neat/new/novel information before your random passerby seems like a great way to thank your dedicated “Customers” who are interested enough in you to sign up for your feeds.

And it seems a fantastic way to incentivize the proposition for people who are on the edge or would not normally sign up for an RSS feed, particularly if your content is compelling and engaging.

The point of this exercise is not to delay the public release beyond the street date of any other news outlet, but rather give interested parties an inside look *before* the street date of any other news outlet. Naturally, any post being eligible for this service would have to comply with NDAs and other such matters.

I only see two hitches:
1) A company looking to do this must primarily be their own news source. Apple and Intel are great options for this value-added service. They generate their own buzz already, all their announcements make headlines and people love their products.

It would *not* work for a second-hand news source which provides value-added commentary and analysis. For example, the Freep would be unwise to delay their content for six hours when someone could simply go to the AP.

In the case of the former, however, the legal issues would be ameliorated because a company can generally do whatever it pleases with their own announcement. Contracting future business plans could be done with this type of PR in mind (and we all know PR does have a heavy effect on Industry).

2) Due to the nature of RSS, it’s entirely possible that your subscriber link could be leaked and defeat the purpose of your exclusivity. To combat this, you could force people to visit your site and offer no feed, but this may be a great inconvenience to some.

In spite of these hitches I think it’s a fantastic idea, but troubled by a limited target audience and a few technical hangups.


July 30, 2008 shannonpaul 15

I’ve still been mulling this over in my head and I feel confident that it will work well.

Ross and Robert – you got it exactly right!

Robert – I thought for quite awhile about the potential for the feed to get hacked, but then it occurred to me that if anyone can register for the feed, why hack it?


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