How to Find and Use Free News and Articles in your Web Site
How to Find and Use Free News and Articles in your Web Site

In the previous article, Linda talked about how to use RSS feeds for aggregated Web sites or blogs. In this article, she leads readers into using RSS, press releases and other free sources to create a Web “hub” for topical information. She provides perspectives on various news sources, links and information on how to use this material.

Free Words for the Taking

If you plan to build a Web site or blog that works as a 'hub' for topical information, you may have wondered where you can find news, articles, images and other bits of information to fill up your site. You also may wonder how you can build a hub that won't eat up all your time and efforts. Although I'm still learning about all the resources on the Internet available for free (or at small cost), you may find the following information useful for your efforts.

On top of the information located below, you'll also need to add your social media platforms to the mix,  so you have various ways to market your news (or, for those who object to marketing – you have various ways to spread the news). The available content I'll mention today are those resources that have worked for me in an extraordinary fashion at AppomattoxNews.com, but you can rest assured that you can use these resources for a graphic design or programming site, too.

Press Releases Can Save Your Sanity

You want to keep your readers informed about the latest news in graphics or design, right? But, you have very little time to spend on that effort, right? Additionally, you're just as tired of writing short blog entries only to point your readers to another site for the news, correct? The answer to your prayers might lie in press releases.

The beauty behind press releases is that many are free, they can be well written, and the cream of the crop in press releases often do not sound like a marketing pitch for any given company. Although you can purchase syndicated news services from the likes of Reuters and Associated Press, a designer can find more than adequate news sources from places such as PR Newsire and PRWeb.

Don't be put off by the marketing that these sites use to people who need to write and send press releases (although, they all have insightful information available if that's your goal – but more about that issue in another article). Instead, find the press releases that each site generates and begin to delve into various informational treasure troves.

How to Use These Sites

Each site mentioned above has its own little quirks, and finding the news may not be easy. Here are some easy ways to dive into each site's press release base:

PR Newswire: You don't need to register or sign in to use the press releases located at PR Newswire. You should know, however, that registered members of PR Newswire are solely responsible for the facts and accuracy of all information submitted to PR Newswire through their press releases. You can use those materials without consultation with PR Newswire. All other uses of PR Newswire's daily news release file, "including but not limited to any electronic redistribution or database storage and retrieval  - whether or not for resale -- in full, in part, in full text or in abstract, is prohibited without the express written consent of PR Newswire."

Before you decide whether you want to use this site or not, simply head to the masthead and the tabbed menu located at the top of the page:


The arrow shown in the image above points to "Today's News" and, if you click on that tab, you'll find a list of news press releases that constitute "breaking news" for any given date:


Although you might be tempted to use these stories, do they pertain to your Web site focus? Probably not, unless you run a news site, a coffee-focused site or a site that reports on auto mobiles, specifically Volkswagen.

If you're seeking news about technology, though, you can click on the "Industry & Markets" tab located in the top menu to learn more. If you click on that tab and go to "Industry Home," you'll see the following page when you mouse over the "technology" news category:


The menu on the right above lists all technology news categories, which makes it easy for you to decide which news items you might want to use. For instance, if you click on "Electronic Gaming," you'll find news items for Sunday, 30 August 2009 that include information about Guitar Hero, Virtual Arena, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and information about financial reports, conferences and more.

If you can't use gaming news, poke around some other categories to find a mix of information you can use. Yes, you – a mere mortal – can use these press releases on your Web site and yes, they are free. If you did not notice yet, each feed within PRNewswire also uses RSS – a feed that you can tack on to your blog (or your NING group site or NING blog or other 'hub' to make work even easier. These feeds, however, will work only if you cover all aspects of any given category.

PRWeb: I like these folks. I registered on the site, and about 30 minutes later I received a phone call from a sales person at that company. Although I wasn't pursuing the goal of writing and sending a press release, the salesman still took the time to walk me through the site to learn more about what they offer. They offer a lot, but it may seem difficult at first to find their press release database.

PRWeb lists its top stories on the home page, but to dig deeper you must head to any of the submenus listed in the left column (you may need to scroll down to see the menu below on your screen):


You can search for press releases by industry, country, region, day of release and even search through videos. In the "Useful Links" section, you can find RSS feeds for various content. RSS feeds are available for both public consumption and to third-party publishers for redistribution on Websites. In addition, they have a plug-n-play news feed solution (Javascript) available to publishers through their plug-n-play [PDF] guidelines.

Before you use any services, though, look through the categories and sub-categories to get a feel of what you might use from these services. If you click on the "Industry" link shown in the above menu, you'll come to this page:


 

If you want to browse through stories, click on the links to the left rather than on the other links. If you click on "Art & Entertainment: Photography," for instance, you would have discovered these stories on 30 August 2009:


A few of the press releases listed above also contain images – which are free to use along with the stories. One suggestion here – if you find press releases at PR Web to work to your advantage, you might drop a few bucks in their coffers occasionally. You still come out ahead, considering what you might pay writers to come up with this information for you. Most of the press releases at this site are well written and focused, bringing interesting perspectives to current events.

Linda Goin

Linda GoinLinda Goin carries an A.A. in graphic design, a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in social media experiments.

Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.

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