Good story sources aren’t always easy to come by, as most journalists can attest. And, the stress of deadline pressure can make finding those sources an even more daunting task.
But, while there are several free services out there to help, there are few that take the time to vet those same sources.
Enter Chicago-based Source Sleuth, a free service that seeks to connect journalists, bloggers and other writers with “quality sources.”
Launched in the spring of 2012 by founder Ryan Evans, Source Sleuth sets itself apart from similar services such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and Profnet, by focusing on not just the quantity of the sources it delivers but, more importantly, the quality.
Source Sleuth operates in much the same way as both HARO and Profnet except for one possibly crucial difference: instead of forwarding queries to a huge database and allowing potential sources to respond on their own, the Sleuth claims to cull its own proprietary database of sources and then forward only those sources that are best fits.
And, one feature that is exclusive to Source Sleuth is an email finder option, where the service can help locate an email address for a source a journalist already has but may be having difficulty locating contact information.
Evans recalled that the idea for Source Sleuth arose when he used other, now-competing, query services to try and get publicity for his own online marketing company, Lift Marketing.
“I became intrigued with the idea of efficiently matching sources with journalists who were working on a particular story. This process is certainly a lot more efficient for both the source and the journalist than having PR folks pitch hundreds of off-topic pitches to journalists,” Evans says.
Evans adds that a key problem with some of the competing query service’ models is that it’s fairly common for journalists to be inundated with off-topic pitches for a query.
“Many flacks use queries as an excuse to pitch their client, regardless of whether the client is qualified to speak on a topic or even relevant to the story,” he says.
Evans relates that Sleuth’s model is different because they’ve forgone the use of a huge, open email list to reach sources and instead tap a “very large database of experts by Crawling the web and making that data searchable.”
“The other difference,” Evans notes, “is that we assign a researcher to each query that comes in. They look through our database to find quality sources and then reach out to sources to see if they are interested in helping out with the story.”
In addition, Evans says that Sleuth uses a variety of research techniques along with “good old fashioned hustle to find, qualify and queue up good sources.”
As a result, Evans claims that the company can find quality sources for close to 90 percent of its queries.
Asked how the free service generates revenue, Evans says that part of the business is still a work in progress.
“We’re still working out the revenue model but the general direction we are headed is analogous to how Google makes their money. The search results are free, but because they have so many searches they are able to sell ads to businesses next to the search results. We intend on keeping Source Sleuth free for journalists forever, but are going to charge a small percentage of sources to receive media opportunities **IF** the source make sense. However, we’ll never limit the pool of sources to only paid subscribers.”
Moreover, Evans says that he’s very aware that some of the other services seem to put the needs of PR customers ahead of journalists.
“We’re trying very hard to do a great job for journalists. If we continue to do that, over time I think we’ll build a valuable service for sources too.”
Have you used query services to find sources? What were your experiences like? Tell us in the comments or Tweet us @10000Words.
- Storytelling Conference May Have Tips for Digital Pubs
- New York Times Steps Up Political News Presence
- Apply for the Matter International Reporting Fellowship
- Uncertain Future for NY Times Reporter Protecting Confidential Source