Business Wire, the San Francisco-based press release service, is offering a free polling system that allows newspapers to survey local businesses. The unscientific surveys are sent only to Business Wire clients.
After editors craft their questionnaires, Business Wire distributes them to its clients in the geographic area of the newspaper’s choosing, via e-mail and fax. Surveys are returned directly to the newspaper, which tabulates the results and manages the feedback.
The Star Tribune in Minneapolis was the first to use the service, in 2001. “This is the new-millennium version of the man-on-the-street interview,” said John Oslund, Star Tribune business research editor. The paper has used SurveySource to poll local businesses about their views on the economy, Oslund said.
Each survey has resulted in a story, such as this piece that ran in January 2002. Business Wire only asks that the newspaper credit its services in the story. The company also distributes a press release about the survey results.
While the survey isn’t a scientific poll, it is a useful device, Oslund said. “It’s not a random sample and we don’t pretend that it is,” he said. “It is simply a way to ask business leaders the same question in the same span of time to take a pulse from the business community. We found some local companies that were alive and well in Minnesota that we had never heard of,” including smaller manufacturers and professional services companies that the business desk wouldn’t have normally contacted.
SurveySource has also been used by The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Business Wire’s primary competitor, PR Newswire of New York, doesn’t offer surveys of this type, but the company said some journalists use its ProfNet database to create their own panels of experts to be queried on various topics.