Rethinking Press Release Metrics: Beyond the Illusion of "Reach"

Mark Willaman avatar

Mark Willaman

Cofounder of

A hand reaching for nothing. The elusiveness of the reach metric.

This article challenges the conventional measurement of press release effectiveness, emphasizing engagement over reach. It explores the true value of press releases as a direct-to-buyer marketing tactic and advocates for a shift toward news marketing and engagement metrics.

Why is engagement, not "reach", the best way to measure the effectiveness of a press release?

First, let's review the primary reasons companies should be using press releases and no, it's not to get media coverage. A common mistake small and midsize businesses (SMBs) make about press releases is assuming the press release alone will generate media coverage. Sure, there is the occasional time when a press release results in media coverage, but for most SMBs, this is not the norm nor a reason to send press releases. Media coverage is a result of media relations, and while the press release plays a role in pitching news to journalists (media relations), it is not the primary purpose of the release.

The Valuable Roll Press Releases Play in Marketing

Think of the press release as a direct-to-buyer, media bypass marketing tool. The news format of a press release brings credibility that is hard to achieve through traditional content marketing tactics. Moreover, press releases are a foundational document that forces marketers to concisely communicate what is being announced and why it matters - serving as a springboard to creating website and direct marketing copy, social media posts, media pitches, and other marketing communications. Jeff Bezos agrees, because it forces complete but succinct thought and communication.

Regardless of the news that you are announcing - and you should announce something new each month - a well-written press release will grab attention, provide an overview of what's being announced, the intended audience, why it matters, the benefits, inspirational quote(s), and a call-to-action.

My press release 'reached' millions of people! No, it did not.

So how do you measure press release success? One metric often used to measure the effectiveness of a press release is reach, a marketing metric that refers to the total number of people who have been exposed to the "content". In advertising, reach is the number of unique individuals to whom your ad has been displayed - a fundamental metric for 'estimating' the potential audience size that could be exposed to the ad.

While reach plays a crucial role in assessing advertising options, its significance differs significantly when applied to press release newswire distribution. Most press release newswires report reach as the total number of people that could 'potentially' view the release.

In this context, reach - sometimes referred to as Total Potential Audience - is the total number of visitors per month across all the websites where the press release was published.

For example, Benzinga gets over 11 million visitors per month. If a newswire publishes a press release to that website the reach will be reported as 11 million. Because newswires publish press releases to hundreds of websites it is not uncommon for a single press release to have a reported 'reach' of 20+ million.

The reality is that very few people organically navigate to these press releases. In fact, unlike traditional advertising where it's pretty much guaranteed that someone will see the ad, there is zero guarantee that anyone will see a press release buried deep within a /press_releases subdirectory of a website not indexed for search and with no links to the page. In this context, 'reach' is a meaningless number used to inflate the perceived value of the press release.

This is why companies shouldn't place too much emphasis on the press release placements. Most newswires, including, deliver press releases to hundreds of online newsrooms and websites, and it's fun to see those media brands on clipping reports. But the value of these placements isn't as high as people think, especially since Google's Useful Content Update. What you want is engagement, with the right audiences.

Engagement is What Matters

Engagement of a press release is a broad term that encapsulates (1) views of the release, (2) reposts/shares, (3) comments, and (4) reactions (e.g., 'likes' on social media).

Engagement trumps backlinks and is the middle step between awareness and action. Remember your classic marketing theory:

Awareness > Interest/Desire > Action

Engagement is what leads to "action' aka conversions (clicks to your website or landing page).

These are the engagement metrics that provides on press release clipping reports - we provide other information too but the engagement metrics are what you should focus on.

Engagement metrics are something that we can confidently report as accurate due to our proprietary Web3 Stack that allows us to provide trustworthy numbers for clicks on the headline (press release views). This also allows us to show an estimated cost-per-click (CPC) to help marketers better evaluate their press release effectiveness. Most press releases distributed through achieve a CPC of between $0.025 and $0.50 (because the press release is a permanent fixture on the Internet, the CPC diminishes over time).

To maximize engagement for a press release, shift your focus to a term we call news marketing - the marketing of your press release post-distribution.

News marketing tools available on Newsworthy that help boost engagement for the press release include influencer marketing and advocacy, direct-to-buyer notifications, and through NewsRamp™, the curation of the press releases into multiple content formats, translation into 12 languages, and additional syndication through NewsRamp's proprietary distribution network.

What you won't see on clipping reports is reach - or 'Impressions', an even more bogus number.

To learn more about how can boost your awareness and engagement book a demo with me.

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