I am one of the 16,600 people on Peter Shankman’s HARO (Help a Reporter Out) e-mail distribution. I joined on April 30th when there were about 800 members. Peter has obviously touched a nerve and has met a need that wasn’t being met, or wasn’t being met to its potential. It is amazing that someone with an e-mail distribution list can take on an established industry leader like ProfNet (with 14,000 members), overtaking it in a matter of months. ProfNet’s business model, to say the least, will now have to be revamped. Did I mention that HARO is free?

From Peter’s morning query today:

As I’m sure you’ve seen this morning, the next round of shots have been fired in the (As Media Bistro is calling it) “Profnet vs. HARO” war. I never started HARO to take on Profnet, but that’s what happens when something becomes successful, I guess. I started it because I thought reporters and sources needed a better way to connect, one that didn’t require paying a ton of cash, or wading through hundreds of off-topic or SPAM emails. As we blow past 16,600 members this afternoon, it would seem that I was right.

Check out the Industry Standard article for more details:

When skydiving PR guy Peter Shankman started the “Help a Reporter” group on Facebook last November, he thought his project could connect a few reporters up with sources for their articles. He didn’t expect his idea would garner clients like The New York Times, and challenge a long standing industry giant’s spot on top.

Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, is a mailing list with more than 16,000 members and dozens of source requests being sent out daily. It’s also a significant threat to the only other major source-finding game in town, PR Newswire’s ProfNet.

ProfNet, which reportedly costs upwards of $3,000 per year for potential sources, has a looming threat in HARO’s free model.

The threat began to materialize in March, when Shankman turned his project from a 684-person Facebook group into a full fledged three-times-per-day mailing list that was dead-simple to sign up for — and more importantly, free for both reporters and sources.

This brings me back to Martindale v. LinkedIn. I am excited that later today I get to see a sneak peek at Martindale Connected (scheduled to launch “in coming months”). But, is it too late? Has the “free” of LinkedIn replaced anything that Martindale can offer? I guess I’ll find out around 3:00 pm (Pacific) today.

But really, how come I never get these great ideas?