MSN's Live Search News giveth and AOL News taketh away

At some point during the holidays, MSN's Live Search News started to include press releases in its results. At roughly the same time, AOL News stopped including press releases in its results.

Of course, the first news search engine to treat press release distribution services as "news sources" was Google News, back in September 2002. Yahoo! News started including press releases in its results in March 2004. And press releases are mixed in with the results at Ask.com News Search and Topix.net.

According to a report from Outsell, press releases have become the top news source of knowledge workers. Outsell called this an “eye-popping shift in most-used information types.” Only 10% of knowledge workers in the corporate sector used press releases as news sources from September 2004 to January 2005. This changed dramatically from November 2005 to February 2006, when Outsell found 37% of knowledge workers using press releases as news sources.

Press releases leapfrogged over trade publications to become the top news source of knowledge workers. Roger Strouse, Outsell Vice President and Lead Analyst, has offered several possible explanations for the rising popularity of press releases. “It may be that press releases are easier for people to get their hands on,” he told InformationWeek last year. “It may be that press releases are shorter and pithier,” he added.

It will be interesting to see if this trend accelerates or decelerates this year -- with MSN's Live Search News adding press releases to its results, while AOL News is deleting them.