Dubai-based site tracks what Journalists do on twitter

Article Summary
Presspass, a new web site founded in Dubai by David Haddad and Valencio Cardoso, aims to help small businesses and citizen journalists solve the riddle of getting their messages out in the media, while bypassing high priced public relations outfits. Al-Monitor’s Ben Gilbert interviews the founders. is a new website that serves as a directory of journalists and media professionals.   The site uses Twitter to track what journalists are sharing and reading, in addition to topics they follow, who gets their attention and who they interact with.   It then classifies the journalists by beat, region, and news organization. was founded in Dubai by David Haddad and Valencio Cardoso who describe themselves as “enthusiasts of participatory communication via technology.”

For now, the site is basically a directory.  But it’s attracting a lot of attention, and the developers hope to turn it into something bigger. 

David Haddad spoke with Al Monitor over Skype about the site.   Here is an edited version of the conversation. 

Al Monitor:  What is

David Haddad:  We started this site as a directory of journalists who are active on Twitter in North America, and also in the UK. It’s made to appeal to people in the media, and people who want to reach out to the media.

One thing that became apparent in our research for the site was that it’s a little bit mystical to get your message out in the media.  If you’re not a professional public relations person, it’s very hard. 

So we thought what if we created some kind of initiative to connect the two together: members of media and people who want to be on the media, whether it be small businesses, or citizen journalists, in a way that’s trustworthy for both.

For example, if you have a small kick start project and you want to bring it to the attention of a media organization, you can use press pass.  Or, if you’re a citizen journalist and have taken nice pictures, and want to find out if they’re worthwhile or newsworthy, you can use the site.  Or if you’re an artist who is opening an art gallery, and want to get the word out, you can use press pass. 

The main goal is that the service is a way to discover journalists.  There’s Twitter and you can even search around on Google, but we serve as a free directory that allows you to discover journalists. 

Al Monitor:  When did you start?   

David Haddad: Press pass was launched just over a month ago, February 2.  And as soon as we launched, we were surprised by the amount of media, and the user excitement about the platform. 

We’ve had three different sets of people reaching out to us.   The first group of people is media outlets.  We had people from CNN, AFP, Time, and others who wanted to be featured in the directory.   

The Second group consists of individual journalists who work for big media organizations. 

And thirdly, we’ve had people who are what you could call “social media connectors,” contact us.  These are people who are very active in local journalism communities, who have contacted us because they wanted their country featured, or to help us compile a list of journalists in their region. 

Al Monitor:  Why did you choose Twitter? 

David Haddad: Journalists’ twitter feeds tell you a lot about what they’re interested in.  What are they posting?  Who are they interacting with?  What hash tags are they posting?   Being able to analyze that information let’s you see that this journalist is interested in these topics, aware of these companies, so if someone who has something relevant to that wants to get the word out, then you get it out to the journalist who has activities related to that topic.

Al Monitor:  So where do you see this going?  How are you going to make money? 

David Haddad: Well right now it’s a directory.   Over the long term what we want to do is connect people who have a message they want to get out, with people who can help them get the message out.  

Typically, public relations firms have helped people get their message out -- but people who are doing their own public relations can’t afford it.  It could be someone with their own project, a citizen reporter, an owner of a small business, who wants to find a reporter.  So what we will offer them is: the ability to go to a page, fill out a form that asks them questions like: what is unique about your project?  Have you gotten into the press before?  Is this an exclusive story?   In what area does your subject fall? 

And then connect them with the right journalists.  And then have the journalist give us feedback: “that was a relevant message, I want to follow up on it.”  Or:  “that was spam.”  And then charge the person who wants to get the message out a small fraction of what they would be paying for a big PR firm.

And we’re not sure exactly which form of a transaction this would be – but we know it would create value, to connect people in a trusted way, that could mean money for us in the long term.

Al Monitor:  So what’s the difference between this and a public relations company?  

David Haddad: One big difference between this and regular PR is that our service is automated.  So you can help more people out, because you don’t want to charge them big bucks every hour you work for them.

But it’s not just about press releases. In fact we don’t’ think that press releases are a very good way to communicate with a journalist. We think that personalized messages are a good thing.  A person may have an interesting picture of an event that happened.  So in some ways it’s just a way to connect a journalist with a member of the community to help the journalist do his job better. They’re getting an exclusive photo for their article, for example.

So it’s not just about PR, it’s about connecting journalists with the community that’s around them.   And allowing the community to have contact with journalists covering that community.

Found in: twitter, media, journalists

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