Ultimate Timeline of Social Media and PR HistoryUltimate Timeline of Social Media and PR History

Ultimate Timeline of Social Media and PR History

The history of social media dates back to earlier than you might think! Today instead of holding a press conference, brands are using Instagram to announce news.

Distributing your brand’s news has evolved far from the days of messenger services, U.S. mail, fax machines, and old-fashioned wire services. The first press release dates back to 1906, and in 1954, PR Newswire was the first to create a system for electronic distribution of news releases. Prior to its establishment, companies issuing press releases to the New York media had to messenger, dictate, or mail each copy of their news releases to the city’s daily newspapers and news services.

With the advent of PR Newswire, companies were able to send a single copy of their news release to PR Newswire’s newsroom where it was simultaneously transmitted to the city’s major media points. Today, digital domains and social networks, websites, blogs, and mobile apps distribute news with algorithmic speed and analytical codes.

Social PR News Distribution Timeline and Highlights

image of two girls sitting on an old tv gossiping

Here’s a timeline the history of Social and PR news distribution:


The first press release is distributed by the New York Times in 1906, in the wake of a train crash in Atlantic City, NJ. Rumor has it that it was printed verbatim.[4]


Press releases come under additional scrutiny as journalists adopt more stringent vetting processes.


The first radio news program airs in Detroit, MI.[7]


Lowell Thompson hosts the first broadcasted television news program.[7]


The first supercomputers are born. Scientists and engineers create more complex networks to link these machines. These networks will lead to the development of the internet. The first paid ads appear during news programs, further connecting advertising to news media.[7]


PR Newswire is the first to create a system to electronically deliver news releases to the New York media. Business Wire starts as a news release service.


The typewriter celebrated its 100th anniversary and was still the standard piece of office equipment for communicating company news. The earliest forms of the internet are developed in the 1960s.


The first email is sent in 1971 and online forums emerge. Steve Jobs invented the first Apple computer in his garage


The first PCs move to the desktop with 1GB of hard disk and the first cellular phones, sometimes referred to as the brick. In 1983 Apple Computers introduces the first personal computer named Lisa. This decade also welcomed printers, fax machines and push button phones to speed up communications and reinvent the public relations office. AOL is launched, making the Internet more user-friendly. PR Newswire begins archiving news releases on electronic databases, including NEXIS - now LexisNexis (www.lexisnexis.com). PR firms begin releasing video news releases (VNRs), which are new releases in video format staged to appear like actual news reports. This practice has received a lot of criticism and the United States Federal Communications Commission is currently investigating the practice of VNRs.[3]


Mobile working culture that we know today is born. Owning a mobile device became more accessible and bulky laptops hit the Social PR world. Internet Wire (now Marketwired (www.marketwired.com)) is launched as the first Internet-based press release distribution company. Business Wire is the first service of its type to put its clients’ news online, launching the company’s website, businesswire.com. PR Newswire is next to release news directly to consumers via the Web with the launch of prnewswire.com. Internet entrepreneur, David McInnis, starts PRWeb as a free online press release distribution service.


Altavista and Yahoo help bring the internet to average people, opening up mainstream access.


Blogger.com launched and was purchased by Google in 2003.


Emojis (digital ideograms used in electronic messages and web pages) are born on Japanese mobile phones. They would gain international popularity more than a decade later when they appeared on the mobile operating systems of multiple cell phone platforms. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries named the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji the Word of the Year.[2]

The 21st Century: 2000 - Today



PR Newswire issues the first multimedia news release for Touchstone Pictures while promoting the film Pearl Harbor. PRWeb offers social bookmarking. Social media links are added to press releases. PR Newswire begins with del.icio.us and later adds Digg (digg.com), Reddit (reddit.com), Newsvine (newsvine.com), and StumbleUpon (stumbleupon.com). Business Wire starts adding social media tags to releases.


WordPress, a free and open-source blogging platform, launches. WordPress is used by more than 27.5% of the top 10 million websites as of February 2017. It is the most popular and largest blogging system in on the Web with more than 60 million users.[1]


The iPhone is released, which puts social media into the palm and opens a level of accessibility that brands could previously only dream of.[5]


PitchEngine is founded by Jason Kintzler (www.jasonkintzler.com) as an alternative to the traditional press release and push distribution process of wire services and the first PR publishing platform.


Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is founded by Peter Shankman. Originally conceived as a Facebook group where journalists could solicit feedback from the public, HARO evolved into a mailing list that claimed it had more than 100,000 members. As of 2016, HARO claims to have more than 450,000 sources and 35,000 participating journalists.


Journalism gets sloppy and PR distribution services get a wake-up call. PRweb issues a fraudulent press release announcing Google’s purchase of a Wi-Fi provider. The story is picked up by major media outlets, including AP, Reuters, The Next Web, USA Today, MSNBC, and TechCrunch.


Medium is introduced as a hybrid blogging and publishing platform founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.


Muck Rack lists thousands of journalists on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Quora, Google+, LinkedIn and more who are vetted by a team of editors. Offers the one line press; added to Muck Rack’s press release page and sent out by the @MuckRack (twitter.com/muckrack) Twitter account for $1 per character.


LinkedIn introduces long form post publishing inside its network. This allows brands to tailor specific information within the career-focused social media platform, similar to content distributable through Facebook.

Facebook introduces Instant Articles instantarticles.fb.com/. Providing news articles at 10x previous mobile speed increases the percentage of readers who read the entire article before becoming impatient or losing interest.


Snapchat moves past Facebook in video views. Rather than seeing this as a detriment to Facebook, it simply illustrates that there is another platform capable of reaching similar levels of exposure, and illustrates the amount of video content being both created and consumed.


Mark Zuckerberg introduces Facebook Live. Companies now have a way to both informally and formally distribute their message, catering their content on an even more specific and individual level.


Instagram and LinkedIn introduce live video. Facebook launches Facebook Spaces, the social media company's virtual reality (VR) application that allows users to interact in a virtual environment as if they were in the same room.The success of Facebook Live and subsequent adoption by other major social platforms both proves the model and increases the reach of this highly influential tool.


Twitter increased its character count from 140 to 280 characters. Already a prime platform to share news, ideas, promote brand messages, and further brand identity. Twitter's expanded content option allows brands greater flexibility and reach for detailed breaking news and story telling.


Immersive news becomes the new PR reality using AR, VR and 360. Instead of simply putting their content in front of their audience, companies can now put their audience inside of their content.

So Today: Storytelling and Publishing

Organizations have a host of choices when it comes to sharing and distributing company news. Brands are equipped with more publishing power than ever before. They don’t have to rely solely on third-party media outlets to post news. Now, brands do it autonomously using their own newsroom, blog platform, social media networks, and also a variety of paid and free distribution and amplification services. Today’s brands publish news through a blend of social media, search engines, brand advocates, influencers, mobile, visual, and traditional media.

News consumption continues its shift to search engines and social media. With that, social PR pros and content marketers double up as today’s news editors and newsmakers by using publishing and distribution platforms beyond the press release.

For brands, publishing news to a paid wire service reaching traditional media and search engines is nothing new. But new outlets and platforms are bubbling to the top, offering savvy ways to reach and engage directly with your audience and new audiences.

Social PR Press Release Distribution Tips 

In the old-school days of PR, one press release could result in a wide variety of stories in different publications. As times change, new issues come up and the need for rich and fresh content presents a constant challenge. In the past, the focus was to push out the same version of a press release to all channels. That practice has evolved to reflect the tools that brands have - brands can repurpose one story into several fresh versions. This can help maximize distribution and avoid duplicate potential content issues from the standpoint of the user and also search engines.

A brand’s announcement can have the same message, optimized with the same keywords, but have a variety of different versions that can differ in headline, content intro, and the use of multimedia for best results. Get creative and give the same story a different twist.

The Social PR Distribution Checklist

  • Paid - Distribution version: This could be a traditional 400-word news story optimized with strong visuals and video.
  • Owned – Website/blog version: This could be a longer version accompanied by an infographic that tells the visual story.
  • Shared - Social media version: Using strong videos and visuals with a call to action and short teasers of the story designed to lead the reader to the full story on the website newsroom or blog will help your company news stand out in the social news feed.
  • Earned – as result of the paid, owned and shared – chance journalists, bloggers and advocates will push the story forward.

Today’s Social PR Distribution Players

Packaging your company’s news content for social media publishing and distribution is an effective way to reach your potential brand champions, create brand advocacy and attract influencers. Building rapport and relationships with consumers, businesses, and media who are most likely to not only choose your brand, but also advocate it to their friends, family, and coworkers, is key to social PR distribution. Social publishing allows you to increase reach and build trusted relationships and brand equity.

There’s a win-win when it comes to press releases and content distribution: Press releases can be used to announce great content such as a how-to eBook or storytelling infographic, and press releases are also a form of newsworthy content.

Flowing and distributing your brand’s news content through the various social news networks will ultimately generate the most visibility and leads.


Your Facebook page is an extension of your business and can be an effective way to distribute company news and content while directing visitors from Facebook (social media) to your website or blog (owned media). Using a strong visual, a short and optimized version of the news story with a link to the full story on your owned media is the first organic step that is free. As a brand with a Facebook page, you are in essence the editor of your company publication called Your Facebook Page and your Facebook Followers are the equivalent to your email subscribers. Think of your Facebook page as a magazine and your company news content as part of the editorial strategy.

Reporting your company’s news content in a Facebook-friendly way is the first step to driving quality visitors to your website or blog. You can also use Facebook’s paid distribution with the Facebook Business Manager or Power Editor to promote content. You can also guide your target audience to see and engage with your news message, while also helping your target audience discover your news through their friends and targeted distributions. Explore targeting the media via workplace targeting and getting creative with your messaging and visuals in the newsfeed.

Facebook’s most recent features such as custom audiences and website retargeting offer brands an effective way to build a quality social community based on the community you already have and your recent website visitors.


Twitter can be an effective way to reach the media and influential bloggers in your industry by using the social network as a means to find and follow story ideas and sources. A simple way to use Twitter is to organically broadcast your company news in an optimized fashion to your followers (and beyond) with hashtags and links back to full stories on your website or newsroom.

Promoted tweets take advantage of the paid side of Twitter, a social PR distribution option allowing you to put your company news in front of the right people by targeting by geography, gender, and interest. Paying to distribute news via Twitter can further amplify your message into the hands of the mobile market. You pay only when people click, favorite, reply, or retweet your news tweet.


It is possible to use Pinterest to tell your story without having to manage a Pinterest account. Be sure to create Pinterest friendly news content that come equipped with strong visuals.

  • Make it Pin-worthy! Add some text overlays across images.
  • Include Pinterest’s easy sharing options on your blogs such as the Save it button or create boards for your blog or your company newsroom to track media coverage.
  • You can share the press room boards with the media. It’s a virtual pin board used for planning and inspiring anything from weddings, recipes, furniture or even costume ideas.

Pinterest is an excellent way to go direct to your audience or let your audience spread the word for you in Pins and Boards. Pinterest ads were launched to small-to-medium sized businesses in early 2016. Pinterest offers a wide array of advertising tools, ranging from ads that advertisers can pay for depending on the engagement of the pin (from expanding the size of it all the way to clicking through and making a purchase) to its own spin on video advertisements that run a short clip as users scroll down on their feeds.


Today Instagram is the fastest growing social network in history. If your customers are on Instagram, then you should be too! One of the best reasons to be on Instagram is because your customers are (and it’s owned by Facebook.) In 2015, Instagram opened up the advertising platform globally. Instagram’s enhanced ad formats, targeting and buying options help advertisers drive the results they care about—from raising awareness to driving action. (business.instagram.com/advertising)

I love the example on the Instagram business blog about the yogurt-maker Chobani and how they use Instagram to connect with fans.

“We want to be where our consumers are,” says Hilary duPont, Content Manager on Chobani’s Brand Communications team.

“We’re on the platform every day so we know what’s trending. If our consumers are posting about smoothies, we are too. We want to be doing what they’re doing.”

Social PR Secret

Show a different side of your company by sharing inspirational pictures and reach a global audience in a very mobile and visual way.

Check out the official Instagram blog for more business idea and inspiration to use images and video to tell your story and connect with your audience.

P.S. Don’t forget the hashtags!

So, are you ready to go down in Social PR history? Don’t get caught in the archives, stay relevant and know what’s trending.



Lisa Buyer
written by
Lisa Buyer
Looking for the latest Social PR trends or digital life hacks? Meet Lisa Buyer, a subject matter expert in public relations/social media and a recovering digital life junkie. She is the author of Digital Detox Secrets and Social PR Secrets with the foreword by Guy Kawasaki. Lisa brings 20+ years of PR experience always staying ahead of the curve as an early adapter integrating PR, SEO, and social media. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and niche brands. Industries include technology, marketing, real estate, health, wellness, and yoga.