WE HAVE finally added Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) to our survey of investor relations websites. We didn’t cover the company before because it didn’t have a long enough track record as a public company.
It still doesn’t have a long enough history (we typically wait three years), but we figured we couldn’t ignore Google any longer. Besides, in August it will be three years since the company’s IPO.
So what’s Google doing that’s unique or noteworthy? Two things, and both involve using the company’s own products.
What’s New page and RSS feed using Blogger
This is actually quite clever and simple at the same time. Instead of integrating RSS with the site’s content management system, Google IR has created a What’s New page using its free Blogger blogging service. Here’s a screenshot of the What’s New page with posts listed in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top):
The What’s New page is essentially the index or homepage of the blog. The page is customized with a theme that matches the rest of Google’s IR website. One way to tell the What’s New page is hosted at Blogger is by the URL, which is http://googleinvestors.blogspot.com/
Now because the What’s New page is generated by a blog, it has an RSS feed associated with it. Google provides an icon and link to the RSS feed, which it calls a Site Feed, on its IR homepage, email alerts page and, of course, the What’s New page. Google could easily do more to promote the feed, but I’ve promised myself to be less critical in public blog posts, so we’ll leave it at that.
Here’s what the RSS feed contents looks like rendered in Firefox:
When Google announces something that is relevant to investors, Google IR manually adds an item to the Blogger-based What’s New page, which in turn automatically creates a new RSS item. Anyone subscribed to the RSS feed gets the notification about the news.
One downside to this approach is that it’s manual. It’s essentially a managed RSS feed. Someone has to add an item to the What’s New page via Blogger to generate the RSS item. If they don’t, or if they’re slow to do so, RSS subscribers don’t get the news, or they learn about it elsewhere.
Still, considering the cost — free! — it’s a simple and innovative practice that any company could follow. It works especially well for Google because the company owns Blogger and is seen to be using its own products — eating its own dog food, as they say.
YouTube videos of presentations
Video is a powerful communication medium for investor relations — and raw unscripted video like media interviews and presentation Q&As are the most powerful of all. Google has recently started posting videos of its executives’ presentations and interviews.
And again, the company eats its own dog food by using its YouTube service, which it acquired in October 2006 for $1.65 billion. The good news is you don’t have to pay that much. It’s also free.
Google’s investor relations videos are typical, grainy YouTube fare. But that just adds to their value. They’re not slick marketing bumf that risks putting investors off. Adding even more credibility is the fact that investors are free to add comments, share, embed or rate the video in the same way as any other video on YouTube.
Here is a screenshot of a YouTube video of Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Bear Stearns 20th Annual Media Conference on March 6:
Of course, the videos are not a replacement for standard audio webcasts. Google does webcasts of live events and then adds the YouTube videos later. As promised, I’m not going to be critical about how long it takes them to get the videos up on the site.
What’s important here is that any company can do what Google is doing. Using a service like YouTube to post video of your executives at conferences, site visits or even in self-produced interviews is easy and cheap.
All you need is a bit of imagination and a desire to communicate.