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“An official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.” – that is the rather banal and perhaps antiquated textbook Oxford Dictionaries definition of the all important “Press Release” – a staple in today’s communication’s diet for any company.

As a communicator, I am inclined to believe that everything portrayed as commonplace today usually has a compelling (Cogent) untold story lying behind it. I posed two originative questions to unveil this one:

1. When was the press release invented and by whom?

2. How many press releases get issued every year?

I will answer the second one first, since the response to the first one is far more interesting and will be covered in my next blog.

How many press releases get issued every year? The volume of press releases issued is in fact indeterminable since there is no single source, regulatory authority or statistical body that is mandated with measuring this. It could be as fruitless as asking how many business speeches are made by executives globally. All the information is public – but given its decentralization – makes for a gargantuan task to aggregate.

However, a reasonable estimation may yet be made. PRWeb, a top 3 leading wire service distributed a median of 811  and a mean of 760 press releases daily during a randomly selected week in July 2012. PRNewswire, the market leading service in the US, is estimated to distribute between 1000-1200 releases globally, as a daily average. In its 2011 annual report,  PRNewswire’s parent comapny – UBM had declared issuing 195,700 press releases in the United States, putting the total volume of releases issued in the US alone at 655,000 in 2011 – giving PRNewswire a 29.9% share of the market. Experts aggregate these figures globally to estimate that 4000 press releases are issued daily through the various wire services, putting the formal number of press releases issued through wire services at  a staggering 1.46 million per year. But this remains the proverbial tip of the Iceberg since many releases are sent through non-paid services ( PRLog, ClickPress etc.), directly distributed by companies to their proprietary databases and in many cases ( public sector notably in many countries ) just issued on the organization website without any distribution. While there is no credible way of measuring this “black market” of press releases, it is generally believed that on a rule of thumb basis they may represent up to 75% (3 out of every 4 ) of all releases issued. So the best estimate I can provide is that 5.84 million press releases get issued every year across the globe ( Approximately 16,000 daily ).

Should anyone have a more accurate or informed source of statistics – would be pleased to hear your comments on it. The more pertinent issue of course is not the volume but the effectiveness – how many of these 5.84 million paper boats launched actually reach the shores of publication and how many get devoured at sea by Poseidon. Surely, only the most cogent communications must survive the commoditized sea.

Tomorrow… the history of the press release….

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