What is a Mat Release?

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What is a Mat Release?
(Or a Matte Release?)
 
How much does it cost?

And how does it get me guaranteed publicity?

A "mat release" (also spelled "matte release") is a formatted, consumer-related article that newspaper editors can use to add content to their publication. The term comes from the old days when newspapers were physically laid out and formatted. The process is electronic now, but the name has stuck.
 
Mat releases are often used by editors to supplement staff-written stories to fill soft news sections of the paper, such as automotive, home & garden, or food/cooking. Editors receive the content for free because the releases and their distribution are paid for by the client. So when you see a recipe story mentioning a General Mills product, and automobile story mentioning Bridgestone tires, or a home office story mentioning UPS Stores, for instance, you are probably reading a mat release story.

Newspapers love these syndicated features because they can be dropped in quickly with little or no editing. If an ad gets cancelled at the last minute or a specific section editor needs one more story in a hurry, there's no need to assign a writer to a task--the editor can just drop in a mat release. With newspaper staffs being cut to the bone more each year, this content is becoming an essential editorial tool at even the biggest papers.
 
Publicity-savvy companies and PR agencies like mat release campaigns because the result is a lot of media coverage. As in dozens to hundreds of newspaper features and a combined circulation of millions. With the top two providers, a minimum level of coverage is even guaranteed in the contract. (The PR people who say, "There's no such thing as guaranteed publicity" really mean there's no guarantee with them.)

Even some seasoned PR professionals aren't aware of these services or don't know how to properly utilize them. Mat releases operate under the radar.
 
They're no secret to the best marketing organizations, however. Most of the large consumer-oriented companies in the U.S. distribute mat releases on a monthly or quarterly basis: companies such as Sony, Procter & Gamble, Hallmark, Nestlé, Toyota, Microsoft, and Dole build it into every annual budget. So do large non-profits or trade associations, such as the American Medical Association, AAA, the Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and the Dairy Marketing Association. The three largest mat release companies have reportedly served over 8,000 clients combined.
One vendor's sample clients

Most of the features appear in suburban and community papers, though articles do appear in the top-100 newspapers with regular frequency. In general, the larger the staff at a newspaper, the less they will need a service like this. Papers such as USA Today and the New York Times will probably never use them. Where newspaper staffs are spread too thin--which is getting to be more of them all the time--mat releases help get the paper out the door and keep each issue interesting to the general public.

This web site provides information on when a mat release campaign makes sense and when it doesn't. It provides general information on costs and what the various syndication services deliver. There is no written or implied guarantee, however, that this information will be accurate at the moment it is read: do your own homework through the contacts listed before proceeding.

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