One of the most useful web services for journalists has to be Response Source (www.responsesource.com). The sister site to press release service Source Wire (www.sourcewire.com), Response Source puts journalists in contact with PRs. Journalists submit their questions via an online form that goes to a number of agencies who use the service. They then respond if they have something to offer. It started in 1998 as a technology-led service, but today it offers more than 25 themed areas including retail, travel, farming and education. According to owner Daryl Willcox, around 3,000 PR professionals have signed up to the service and more than 1,000 journalists are registered. "Response Source shortcuts basic research tasks for journalists," says Willcox. "The time saved in gathering basic information from PRs allows journalists to get on with the more important work of interviewing and tracking down hard facts." I have used the service and found it a quick way to get useful information that would have taken a number of phone calls and a lot of time. Of course, the service can only be as good as the PR folks who must respond.
The Press Association is expanding its SMS paid-for services with the launch of a weather forecasting service.
A partnership between its PA Weather Centre and internet applications provider InfoSpace will allow people on all mobile phone networks to access the latest weather forecasts for 27,000 locations across the UK and nearly 100,000 for other parts of the world. The service will be offered to third-party websites and publishers who can rebrand the service and gain a revenue share from it. Users pay a premium price of around 25p a message, but PA says it is targeting those who need fast and accurate weather forecasts. The only downside is that when users rack up huge bills they may become disillusioned with this and similar services. Providers need to offer monthly and yearly subscriptions with a pay-as-you-go option so people can try it out initially.
Ever wondered what a particular website used to look like? The Way Back Machine, at www.archive.org, allows you to enter a web address and then it displays the page as it used to appear. It started indexing and archiving web pages in 1996 and is now one of the largest databases in the world. It works by visiting web pages and taking snapshots of them. Some sites are visited on a monthly basis, others less often, but overall it’s a great resource for seeing how the web has developed and gives useful access to pages that are no longer around.