Last November, a fraudulent release claiming Google was acquiring Wifi provider ICOA was circulated by the popular release distribution service PRWeb, exposing a number of loopholes in their verification and editorial processes. Our own Danny Sullivan published a comprehensive story explaining how such releases find their way through PRWeb’s system.
After posting a statement on the fake release, PRWeb began a series of technology and editorial updates that have resulted in a more stringent review process, doubling the percentage of releases put on editorial hold.
“We wanted to combat PR fraud,” said You Mon Tsang, PRWeb’s senior vice president of products during a phone call last week, “We also wanted to make sure releases didn’t feel too promotional.” Tsang outlined the updates PRWeb has made including new identify verification measures that integrate website, email, phone and social authentication processes, along with more strict editorial guidelines.
According to an announcement covering PRWeb’s new updates, authenticated Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts will be displayed within releases, visible to all readers. PRWeb claims they are the only release distribution service with automated and social verifications.
Tsang also explained how PRWeb has updated the software that automatically scores a release based on content and SEO analysis, as well as contact information. The scores are used internally to identify releases at risk of being fraudulent.
“Any release that receives a red score [the highest risk score] must be reviewed by a senior editor,” said Tsang. According to Tsang, PRWeb employs 42 editors working around the clock, making editorial decisions on the 2,000 releases that are uploaded daily.
Another update to PRWeb’s editorial process is the addition of newly banned category topics, including:
- Payday loans
- Male enhancement drugs and supplements
- Online pharmacies that promote “no prescription required”
- Work from home
- Stock picks
- Green coffee beans
- Raspberry keytones
Tsang says that PRWeb will reject legitimate releases if the product or service is too closely related to a banned category, and that banned topics are continuously being added, “We meet monthly to address what topics need to be banned.”
“There will be more changes in the coming months,” reports Tsang, but the updates so far seem to be working. Vocus [PRWeb's parent company] PR manager Laura Spaventa sent an email verifying that the percentage of releases placed on editorial hold nearly tripled when the initial updates were implemented in December 2012. “In the first few months after these changes were completed, the percentage of releases placed on editorial hold is now double the percentage that were held before the changes,” wrote Spaventa.