by Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media, Business Wire
The Washington Post Company’s decision to put Newsweek on the block this week is the latest example of the modern Darwinism that is radically reshaping the media industry. For me, the news was more personal, having spent a decade [1977-1987] at Newsweek when it was near the top of its game, still basking in the afterglow of its Watergate heroics.
Newsweek‘s top editors were known internally as “The Wallendas,” a reference to the famous circus family that walked the high wire without a safety net. Ironically, it was the magazine itself that decades later would become the victim of a potentially fatal free-fall that endangers its very existence.
In chronicling Newsweek‘s near-death experience, Jon Friedman, the MarketWatch media columnist, pinpointed the core issue confronting all media companies today. “In the 21st century,” Friedman writes, “the key question that media companies will face is this: Is my product relevant? “
Of course, Friedman is right. Relevancy is king, and always has been. Routine relevancy checks are a requisite for survival in today’s media metamorphosis. I’m not entirely convinced, however, that relevancy is a phenomenon that is unique to the Digital Age. As far as I’m concerned, relevancy has always been the name of the game.
Business Wire has always revolved around relevancy, and staying ahead of the curve.
We vigilantly seek out new technology and formatting opportunities that will enhance our client value proposition and end-user experience. Business Wire is well-known within the news and information industry for pushing the envelope, and for setting industry standards. Our pioneering NX news delivery system, for example, has been awarded patents in the United States and Canada for its simultaneous, real-time news delivery capability — a must for full and fair disclosure. Most recently, we began formatting our transmission in XHTML, a web-based display format that provides the user with increased functionality and flexibility.
To be candid, Business Wire is not very popular with the IT departments of major media organizations and financial information providers, as we are always raising the bar in terms of our delivery standards. We are more interested, however, in retaining our reputation as the industry technology leader than in winning any popularity contests. It’s a small price to pay for staying relevant.
Despite today’s seismic changes, Business Wire is more relevant than ever. Indeed, Business Wire is likely to play a more significant role in global communications and regulatory compliance in the years ahead.
We’ve made the successful transition from traditional “wire service” to a multi-lingual, multi-media publishing platform that leverages the full spectrum of available delivery channels, ranging from RSS feeds to social media networks, to SEO, to mobile applications. Our network is like a snowball accelerating down a steep mountain — it continues to grow exponentially.
We can say with total confidence that Business Wire has the most robust and dynamic delivery system in the industry, transforming the once humble press release into a rich media, interactive presentation that can be rendered into multiple formats across a range of platforms. Anyone who still thinks of a “wire service” as clattering teletypes and satellite transmission is seriously out of step with reality. We’ve taken Internet delivery to the next level — and have patents in multiple jurisdictions to prove it.
And with the push for financial reform a top global priority, Business Wire’s ability to deliver material information to ALL market participants simultaneously and in real-time takes on a renewed sense of importance. There is simply no substitute for disclosure and transparency, as regulators and reformers worldwide agree.
In our view, there is more than one definition for relevancy. While technology is the backbone of what we do, it is only part of the story. To be truly relevant in today’s era of intense competition requires a commitment to core timeless values, including client service, editorial integrity and credibility, and network security. Without a commitment to these fundamental values, irrelevancy is all but guaranteed.
As Business Wire approaches its “half-centennial” anniversary in 2011, we have never been more optimistic about the future. Rather than being a prisoner of its past, Business Wire is justly proud of it. And we look forward to remaining at the nexus of the global information exchange in the decades ahead.