Newswire aims for growth

By Todd Cohen

A four-year-old news service that feeds nonprofit news releases to news organizations and databases is growing and rolling out new features.

AScribe, a for-profit firm in Oakland, Calif., has 500 subscribers for which it has distributed more than 13,000 news releases, says David Irons, AScribe’s vice president and co-founder.

Using the facilities of the Associated Press, the firm distributes news releases electronically to the newsrooms of nearly 100 daily newspapers. And it uses Internet technology to reach weekly news magazines, online and specialty publications and database services.

Reporters can download news releases from an electronic AScribe basket on their computer screens.

Sixty percent of AScribe’s subscribers are colleges, universities, academic medical centers and graduate professional schools, Irons says.

The others are foundations, think tanks, public-policy groups, associations, arts and cultural organizations, public-relations agencies and consultants representing nonprofits.

AScribe, which sells no advertising, charges $125 for a year’s membership, plus a subscription package ranging from $500 for 10 releases to $1,600 for 40.

News organizations and free-lance journalists get AScribe’s news releases for free.

The firm now has launched a service that, for $125, distributes a single news release within an hour of receiving it.

It also has launched a twice-a-month NewsWatch newsletter that alerts nonprofit subscribers to future events and activities that might provide a good opportunity to issue a news release.

With $1.5 million from investors to cover its first five years, AScribe has seen daily traffic grow to as many as 50 news releases from less than half a dozen after it was launched in March 1998, Irons says, and it expects revenues this year to total $500,000.

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