WebNotes PR – Seriously Overrated

WebNotes PR user interface.

I was asked to review WebNotes PR and the questions to address when reviewing this product were:

  1. Are there real benefits of using this tool (like saving time, monitoring media, etc)?
  2. Can WebNotes PR be used to generate professional media reports?
  3. Is WebNotes PR worth its price?
  4. Are there other similar products that could be used instead of WebNotes?
  5. What professional PR media monitoring and reporting tools would you recommend?

Intuitive UI – Easy to Use, Aesthetic

I signed up for a WebNotes free trial and set up a branded subdomain for our company, to test WebNotes PR. I had to go through the “getting started” tutorial, which is very clear and introduces a user friendly platform with intuitive UI. So far, so good.

But a good, aesthetic user interface doesn’t make a good product – it’s just a part of the equation.

1. Are there real benefits of using this tool?

RSS-based media monitoring: if media monitoring means for you Google Blog Search, Google News, Technorati, and Twitter then WebNotes Media Monitoring suffices. You can add other RSS feeds to WebNotes Media Monitoring if you wish, the tool allows for such additions. Once set up, the media monitoring service will pull out of the above mentioned outlets the most recent news and updates (for Twitter) related to a search term. I used “WebNotes PR” to review the latest media coverage for this service. There weren’t many results, because WebNotes is not popular. I imagine I’d get richer information for other search terms. But WebNotes Media Monitoring is a mediocre tool nevertheless. Professional PRs need to monitor everything from Google News to Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and more. Good media monitoring services scan the entire Web with various tracking tools, ultimately capturing every single relevant mention of a brand. What WebNotes PR offers with its Media Monitoring service is just a piece of the puzzle.

Cute, but time-consuming. Although it offers a Media Monitoring tool that grabs the latest news occurrences, as explained above, WebNotes PR doesn’t automatically highlight the most relevant paragraphs for you. You have to visit each page individually and use the WebNotes highlighter to make your own clippings. There is also an option to add comments to each individual page, in the form of “sticky notes” – this, of course, if you have something important to say. It was easy to go through the latest news for WebNotes – there were only ten sites with relevant information. Can you imagine the amount of time I’d need to spend to generate a media coverage report in such an instance? WebNotes doesn’t generate reports of the results pulled by its Media Monitoring tool, but only from the higllights and sticky notes made manually on each page you visit.

2. Can WebNotes PR be used to generate professional media reports?

The product has not been reviewed by any PR professional yet – only tech journalists wrote about it so far. After I tested the product myself, I am not surprised that the PR industry keeps quiet. WebNotes PR is seriously overrated, and the only people who have recommended it so far for PR use are those who don’t understand our jobs at all. No competent PR would have recommended this tool at this stage of its development.

intelligent media metricsThe media reports proposed by WebNotes are old fashioned at best. Professional PR media reports include intelligent media metrics, such as:

  • buzz volume charts that include all the mentions that are a result of a search query
  • sentiment charts with additional insight on social media mentions by gouging whether discussions are positive, neutral or negative
  • related topics
  • influencer report to reveal the top sources where a brand is being mentioned
  • channel reports to show where conversations are taking place on a macro level: forums, blogs, news, microblogs, etc.
  • author location reports that show the geographic location of the people conversing about a brand
  • gender reports that show who is speaking more about a brand, men or women
  • age charts that show which demographics are mentioning a brand most

A PR report is not just about some clippings and sticky notes, as you see. In my opinion WebNotes, even suggesting that they have a state-of-the-art tool for PR, at this stage, or TechCrunch reporting such a tool without doing a basic research, is about as bad as trying to sell a Dacia Logan at the price of a Rolls Royce.

3. Is WebNotes PR worth its price?

I suppose the staff at WebNotes would say that yes, the product is worth the price. However, I wouldn’t pay for it. The best way to decide whether you want to spend US$35 for this product per month would be to sign up for the free trial and give it a spin. If then you find that WebNotes PR saves research time and increases efficiency, you can also decide whether to pay for it.

WebNotes is mainly a web annotation tool. It’s main strength, compared to other similar services, is that it also annotates pdf files. The WebNotes Media Monitoring tool is an attempt to convert a web-marker into a PR tool. It could have value if it wouldn’t be based solely on RSS feeds. Generating reports from searches without having to visit each page individually would also be an improvement. In the end, to be worth the money and even to be worthy of such a description “technology innovator of online research”, the company needs to refine its services more, up to the point that it can compete with professional PR tools already exiting on the market (see below); or in conjunction with these services.

4. Are there other similar products that could be used instead of WebNotes?

None of the similar tools I tested can generate pdf reports from annotations and highlights, as WebNotes – another strength of the service. But most of them can be used to share pages and notes via email, Facebook and Twitter, so the “send annotated pages out via email, permalink or even twitter” feature WebNotes is so proud of is no biggie. Besides, share functionality is a must even for the lamest blog… The only services I could find that come close to WebNotes are listed below.

iCyte – it doesn’t create pdfs (it sends collections of “cytes” via email), but it is WebNotes on steroids. The service has recently added support for RSS feeds, social media and bookmarking sites, blogs and wikis. Like WebNotes, iCyte lets users annotate the web pages, add relevant tags, organize saved pages into projects and share them with others. But unlike with WebNotes, users can save, tag, annotate and manage virtually any web content (including video and images), share it via their own blog or wiki, and get real-time RSS feeds of publicly shared content. I will write an in-depth review of this service on another occasion.

Diigo – another powerful tool. Like WebNotes it can be used to annotate, highlight, organize and share. It doesn’t create pdf reports, but it is a more powerful collaboration tool than WebNotes, and more, it’s a social research tool.

What professional PR media monitoring and reporting tools would you recommend?

If you run a small PR firm and small campaigns, SM2 by Techrigy is free for five search phrases and storage of up to 1000 results. For a small campaign, this is an amazing tool. The reports generated with this tool include all the intelligent media metrics described above. Upgrades for more storage and more keywords are available at US$600 per month.

A tool for larger PR companies who run powerful media campaigns and need a lot of storage, is PR Newswire’s Social Media Metrics. Prices are tailored for every customer’s needs, and from what I’ve seen the company offers one of the most compelling services on the market. The list of intelligent media metrics in this very article was inspired by PR Newswire.

There are many other tools like these. I will make an in-depth list after I contact all these entities and have tested all their services, which is the fair thing to do. As for WebNotes, I wish them all the success in the world – but my prediction is that their “PR” product will not be adopted by the industry, unless they stop capitalizing on noise and start making the necessary refinements.