A comparison of the top media databases

Posted on: 2012-07-25 in Resources   |   Tagged: cision features exec gorkana media atlas

TopLine’s @JimBeckham, @TopLineFounder and @Charloot compare four of the leading media databases on the market.


Note: Following a number of recent changes to Cision Point that we were alerted to after this review was posted, a revised review for their platform can be found here.


Now that you know what a journalist database is, you probably need some help choosing the best. Luckily at TopLine, we’ve had experience working with four of them (three because we are subscribed directly to them, and one because we got help from another agency), and we’ve decided to share those experiences, by rating them on the B2B PR Blog. The databases are Cision Point, FeaturesExec, Gorkana and MEDIAtlas. We’ve chosen a number of dimensions that we think are most relevant.


Subscriptions to these databases vary quite a bit in price. Gorkana (the most expensive) was very keen for us not to publish their pricing, and we have decided to respect that request across all. Instead we have used a rating system ranging from £ (least expensive) to ££££ (most expensive).


Winner: FeaturesExec


CisionPoint – ££

FeaturesExec – £

Gorkana – ££££

MEDIAtlas – ££


Now price might be a major driver of your decision, but keep in mind that in media databases (as in anything else) you get what you pay for.



Within our team, we’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of dealing with all of the providers. Here’s our rating on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being excellent)


Winners: FeaturesExec and Gorkana


CisionPoint – 4 

Never had a problem with them. Their training is delivered via webinar, which can be both an advantage (can be organised on short notice) and a disadvantage (people don’t tend to focus as hard).

FeaturesExec – 5 

The guys at Darryl Wilcox Publishing (owners of FE) are very keen to provide training at your office and were very helpful through this process.

Gorkana – 5 

The sales process was good (although they were pushy about getting involved in this review), and the after-sales service is excellent. They are very keen to make sure you know how to use the software and will come to your office to train you.

MEDIAtlas – 1 

Website enquiries about the software were ignored. When I called to get a quote and a demo, the receptionist had never heard of MEDIAtlas and just asked me to call back, which I did later. I was asked to call back again.


Comparing the databases in action

In order to pitch the story mentioned in our introductory post, we created a personal finance list using each of the databases and here’s what we found.


Search Types


Winner: FeaturesExec


CisionPoint – 3 

Users can search a specific journalist/outlet or opt for the power search which limits the search to a number of selectable categories – topic/region/media format etc. A recently added keyword/tag search provides an easier to use version of the power search that in most cases seems to return less, but more relevant results.

FeaturesExec – 5 

Users can search a specific journalist or outlet using the quick search. Search can also be done by category, country, circulation figures, region, print type, keyword, distribution method and more. Regional searches go down to county level, which whilst not as detailed as Gorkana’s "draw-a-search" feature, probably returns similar results. Users can also search for a publication’s Forward Features (upcoming feature topics) and journalist enquires (journalists looking for contacts to write about).

Gorkana – 3 

Users can search a specific journalist or outlet or use the category search. However, a search can be also done by region using the map feature, which also includes the ability to draw the exact boundaries of the area you want to search. Although perfect when looking for publications in a certain area, the lack of a proper search by term feature means that one has to know exactly which categories to select to return results.

MEDIAtlas – 3 

Users can search a specific journalist or outlet using the quick search function while ‘Coverage Wizard’ allows for a much broader search using territories, counties, country specific, key words, categories, media type, job title and more. The difficulty is that the more keywords you include, the more limited your search will be.


Total number of Results


Winner: Gorkana


Cision Point 

Power Search     New Keyword Search

Nationals: 0        Nationals: 82

Other: 63            Other: 98

              Total: 243



Category Search

Nationals: 72

Consumer: 119

Trade: 9

Regional: 8

Total: 208



Category Search

Nationals: 22

Online: 81

Magazine: 220

Freelance: 38

Blogs: 62

Total: 423



Coverage Wizard Category Search

Nationals: 42

Other newspapers: 71

Freelance: 57

Magazine Consumer: 16

Magazine, News and Business: 18

Magazine Trade and Technical: 38

Online news source or publication: 74

Other: 3

Total: 319


Relevance of Results


Winner: Gorkana


Cision Point – 2

Hindered by a lack of a Personal Finance category, Cision’s results varied in their relevance. The totals gained above required going through the list and ticking those which were relevant (sorting by circulation to find the Nationals).

FeaturesExec – 4 

Having the Consumer Finance topic meant that all results were definitely relevant. Categories are available on an optional basis and it is critical that you are subscribed to categories relevant to your search in order to find enough results.

Gorkana – 5

The Personal Finance category meant that practically all results found were relevant to our search. Although the number of National journalists was lower than other databases, these were all contacts directly associated with the topic. A large number of the freelancers were also regular contributors to the Nationals. Being able to distinguish blogs from other publications was a useful feature.

MEDIAtlas – 5 

The Personal Finance category meant that most results found were relevant to our search. A keyword relevance rating meant that the results can be ordered easily, although the inclusion of some publications is questionable, the relevance tool made it easy to negate these.


Quality of Information for each Contact


Winner: Gorkana


Cision Point – 1 

Is generally up to date with the nationals and other big magazines. Once you go further down the chain however, details and information are far less comprehensive. There were a few results that appeared in our search that, upon further investigation, were no longer in print.


FeaturesExec – 4 

Checks its contacts’ details on a regular basis. Publishes a daily newsletter of movements within the industry. All of this means that the results you get have pretty much all the information you might need and are up-to-date.  Nice extra touches are the contact’s latest tweet and press deadlines being displayed on profile. Some of the smaller publications did have gaps however.


Gorkana – 5 

Checks its contacts’ details on a regular basis and allows customers and journalists to notify them of changes. Publishes a daily newsletter of movements within the industry. All of this means that the results you get have pretty much all the information you might need and are up-to-date.


MEDIAtlas – 3  

Apart from missing circulation figures on the majority of smaller publications, all other information boxes were filled. Again, their unwillingness to engage with us means we are unable to identify how often the information is updated.


Ability to Organise/Filter Search Results


Winner: FeaturesExec


Cision Point – 4 

Information can be filtered or organised by a host of categories, including title, circulation, frequency or topic. “View Info” feature puts more details under each outlet/contact allowing the user to quickly and easily select only those that are relevant.

FeaturesExec – 5  

Results are automatically divided into Nationals, trade press etc. but can be further filtered by a keyword which is extremely useful. This way we discovered 6 contacts that specifically write about card payments as part of the consumer finance category. Can be reordered by name, position, outlet and company size. A short summery of the topics they cover is available for the majority of contacts, without the need to click through.

Gorkana – 3 

Can only be organised by Name, Outlet, Topic or Popularity. “Sort by Popularity” organises by how much they’ve been used by Gorkana users already. Whilst the criteria used for this is not clear, generally the most useful outlets seem to appear near the top. Only being able to view more info on an individual basis however, makes refining your results a very time consuming process.

MEDIAtlas – 4 

There are levels of search. A basic one which requires you to write the name or publication you are looking for, outlet, country or keywords. An advanced search where you can search on keywords, job types, outlet types, geography and frequency, and the coverage wizard search. Here you can choose from about 15 different search items. Sort by relevance is the most useful filter here.


Creating and Managing Lists


Winners: Gorkana and MEDIAtlas


Cision Point – 3 

Lists can be customised to show as little or as much information as you require, in your order of preference. Multiple configurations can be saved and a default house style set. Takes a little effort to set up, but makes creating, arranging and exporting lists to your style a doddle As far as I could see there was no option to set the list to receive update notifications.

FeaturesExec – 3 

Lists can be ordered Name, Outlet, Job Title or Category and can be filtered by keyword.  Lists can be added to a campaign for further organisation. As far as I could see there was no option to set the list to receive update notifications.

Gorkana – 4 

Lists can be ordered alphabetically by Name, Contact, Organisation, Media Type and Email Address. Annoyingly the useful “Sort by Popularity” is not available once you have saved a list, making it impossible to view data in this order. However, Gorkana can be set to notify the user when updates have been made to their contacts, which is very useful over a long term period.

MEDIAtlas – 4 

Lists can be ordered by columns, including title, circulation, and type (i.e. newspaper). List can also be ordered by relevance to your key search terms which is useful.  Users can save ‘live lists’ and choose to be notified of changes to these. In other words it will automatically update when media at chosen publications change. Lists are all visible on the home page with the name of the user who created it next to the list.


Ease of export


Winner: MEDIAtlas


Cision Point – 4 

Lists can be exported in a number of formats, and users can select exactly which columns they want to include. Some formatting errors do occur in Excel, however, with line breaks causing information to be split over multiple rows.

Features Exec – 4 

Lists can be exported in a number of formats and the user can select which columns they want to include, but not the order they come in. There was not a single formatting error in the list we downloaded.

Gorkana – 3 

Lists can only be exported in CSV format, and stick to Gorkana’s set columns. This leads to a lot of irrelevant information needing to be removed manually and columns rearranged. Outlet description is limited only to outlets, meaning a list of journalists might not tell you much about who they write for. Only a few formatting errors.

MEDIAtlas – 5 

Lists can be printed using the quick print function. They can also be exported in multiple formats and it is easy to choose which items of information you wish to export. A third option is to create a report in excel, PDF or Word format. This can be used to create a briefing books, a contacts chase list, contact summary report or a custom report.


International data

This category is hard to classify as just because a database may say it covers particular countries, doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually has outlets/journalists from those countries in their database yet.


Cision Point

Advertises that it covers 150 countries.

Features Exec

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland.


“Premium Countries” UK, USA, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland.

Options for the rest of the world by individual countries, but whether these actually return results is unclear. Access to these countries is based on subscription.


Advertises “4 Global Modules”, based on subscription

North America: includes all 50 U.S. states, Canada and US Hispanic media outlets Europe: United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Middle East and Africa Asia: China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Hong Kong

Latin America: Mexico, Central America, South America and Caribbean Islands


Other factors to consider


Cision Point

  • No Twitter functionality.
  • If being used on another computer you can boot that person out. An effective, if slightly rude way of dealing with colleagues forgetting to log out.
  • Account management is done online by the user.
  • Ability to have multiple sheets open so that separate projects can be handled simultaneously. These are saved automatically upon logout.
  • We have experienced periods where the database is very sluggish, for seemingly no reason at all.
  • Cision is the best for customising, managing and exporting multiple lists quickly and in a format of your choosing. Where it is lacking is in the actual content of these lists themselves.

Features Exec

  • Ability to link and even search by Twitter account, publishes recent tweets on a journalist's profile.
  • Features Exec was the most intuitive of the databases. Navigation around the site is straightforward and there are multiple shortcuts to go from one set of information to another. Unlike other sites (especially Cision) the loading times between pages were very fast.
  • Mail Merge feature has a lot of customisable options to personalise your email for each contact. However a small automatic signature is added to the bottom of your email, offering an opportunity to opt out from future emails. Whilst subtle, this may alert a recipient to the fact that the email comes from a Mail Merge.
  • Lives and dies by what categories you are subscribed to. The optional categories system is ideal if you are working to a tight budget and only need one or two categories. However on occasion you might find yourself trying to choose whether to upgrade your account or sacrifice the quality of your media lists.


  • Ability to link to Twitter, and export lists directly to Tweet Deck.
  • Mail Merge, allowing personalised emails to be sent to contacts on your lists, without an obvious “sent by Gorkana” signature.
  • Can build a profile of a journalist, which is a brief rundown of their most recent work. Handy if you are going for a meeting with them.
  • Not able to boot other users out (meaning you can’t log in if a colleague has forgotten to log out), but a timeout feature is available, upon request.
  • Majority of account management must be done via email to Gorkana. Whilst they respond very quickly, the lack of control/confidentiality of passwords etc. is annoying.
  • Organises regular events with top figures in the media who discuss how they like to be pitched.
  • The number of relevant results and the quality of information for each one is Gorkana’s strongest feature. They were keen to tell us they are always finding ways to improve their system and were receptive to feedback we had for them during one of our training sessions.


  • Information on broadcast media is limited.
  • Claims to have Twitter handles etc, but weak here still.
  • Can only have one search running at a time.
  • Very simple to use.
  • Sends updates to your lists as and when they occur,
  • Customisable dashboard where you can put your most used search types, live lists etc.
  • If you lose search details you can, under coverage wizard, choose ‘use previous settings’.
  • Option when searching for contacts under coverage wizard to have the primary contact, secondary or both contacts to come up.

Simply having a database full of top journos doesn't mean you'll know how to pitch, of course. We can help with that

[The above comparison was based on TopLine’s experiences using all of our databases over a short period of time. We went for Gorkana in the end as it suited our needs best. However, if there are features that we have overlooked, or you have an opinion on our results then please let us know, by commenting below]

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About this blog


The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder of TopLine Comms, and inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].


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