12 Days of Data 2021, Day 7: Press Release Statistics

12 Days of Data 2021, Day 7: Press Release Statistics


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2021 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2021. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was… again…) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your coffee ready, and let’s celebrate some data and look forward to the year ahead.

Press Release Top Level Statistics

On the seventh day of the 12 Days of Data, we dig into the press release, or news release. How many releases happened in 2020? What did they accomplish? Thanks to the Google News database and the GDELT Project, we are able to read all the press releases in 2021.

This year, we were able to extract the full text of 98,311 press releases out of 118,813 press releases in the Google News database. This is an increase of 5.8% from the number of releases in 2020:

Press Releases Per Year

Let’s take a look at the top level numbers:

12 Days of Data 2021, Day 7: Press Release Statistics

  • 10.6% of releases were sent by agencies, down from 13.1% last year, a 19.1% decrease
  • 65.4% of releases were sent using a wire service, up from 51.4% last year, a 27.2% increase
  • 38.3% of releases had detailed contact information including email address, down from 49.4% last year, a 22.5% decrease
  • 49.6% of releases had invalid contact information supplied, up from 24.9% last year, a 99.2% increase

For some details where we don’t have year over year data, let’s see what we found:

  • Releases had a median of 582 words per release
  • Releases were picked up a median of 1 time per release
  • Releases were cited or syndicated a median of 6 times per release
  • Releases had a median Goldstein score of 3 on a -10 to +10 scale

What do we make of this data? Each individual statistic isn’t particularly helpful by itself, but in aggregate, this paints a picture of a very changed public relations profession. It would appear, at least in terms of volume, that press releases (which tend to cost a fair bit of money for reputable news wire services) have fallen out of favor.

Some of this is very likely pandemic-related, especially the decrease in releases sent by agencies as more PR agencies have pivoted into other areas of media such as content marketing and influencer marketing. Many agencies have been mired in the massive employment dislocation, with lots of people quitting or switching positions at competitors.

Key Takeaway

Press releases and news releases still have a role to play, especially in highly-regulated industries. Financial services and investment firms subject to rules such as SEC Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) still hold the newswire release to be the gold standard of acceptable public disclosure; while the SEC ruled that social media was an acceptable form of disclosure in years past, the nature of social network algorithms could potentially imperil that ruling in the years to come. If you have news to distribute that requires public disclosure in a time-tested (and more importantly, court-tested) manner, use a press release.

However, for other forms of outreach, do what many PR agencies have done and pivot into social media, influencer marketing, and content marketing. These channels tend to offer more reliable results, especially at a time when traditional news media outlets are shorter-staffed than ever before. Getting information out to customers, prospects, and the general public has never been simultaneously easier and harder; easier in that there are many more channels to choose from, and harder in that there are so many channels, it’s hard to find the right one for your audience.


Trust Insights used Google’s GDELT news service to extract 118,813 news releases published in 2021 in the English language. Releases were filtered to require a minimum of five sentences and had to be publicly accessible, leaving 98,311 from the initial extract. The timeframe of the study is January 1, 2021 to December 16, 2021. The date of extraction is December 16, 2021. Trust Insights is the sole sponsor of the study and neither gave nor received compensation for data used, beyond applicable service fees to software vendors, and declares no competing interests.


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