AT HIS first press conference Monday night, US President Barack Obama made history at 8:52 pm ET by calling on blogger Sam Stein of the Huffington Post to be among only 14 reporters to ask a question.
The recognition of a blogger alongside mainstream media outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg and national television networks shows that the White House recognizes that today’s definition of what is media is not what it once was.
Today, people get their information from a wide range of sources, including blogs and from their friends and acquaintances on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and others.
In a further sign of this changing reality, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) recently began gathering data for a New Media Index. In its first report published last week, the PEJ found that economic issues had dominated coverage on blogs in the week Jan. 26-30.
Explaining why it had decided to launch the new index, the PEJ said:
“Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating today’s news information narrative and in shaping the way Americans interact with the news. The expansion of online blogs and other social media sites has allowed news consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation.”
Rise of new financial influencers on the web
Closer to home, in the world of investor relations, a similar thing is happening. Only in this case the economic meltdown that has ravaged Wall Street and the broader economy is hastening the process.
As people clamor for news about the economy and stock market, they’re discovering that their struggling local newspapers have scrapped their stock listings and done away with standalone business sections. Even the mighty Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times have recently announced layoffs.
Meanwhile, the business model for traditional sell-side research is also under pressure. Many analysts –- often the higher earning, more experienced ones – have been let go.
In such an environment, where do investors turn for information? Increasingly, they are turning to the web and alternative sources. A recent survey by Bloomberg found that 65% of buy-side respondents internationally said they planned to use more independent non-broker research sources in 2009.
Individual investors today are spoiled for choice in sources of information and opinion available to them on the web. Cheap, easy-to-use technology has given rise to hundreds of new financial voices on the web, many of them experts who simply were not accessible online before.
Sense of urgency
Corporate directors, management and investor relations professionals should be asking how their companies are responding to this new reality. If President Obama can take a question from a blogger at an official White House press conference, why can’t the CEO do the same thing on an earnings conference call?
In our consultations with clients, this is a theme that we are stressing with a new sense of urgency. Today’s environment requires a completely new approach to how investor relations, and online investor communications in particular, is conducted.
While the old model is still relevant, it is nowhere near as nimble or as effective as the new one we are talking about with our clients. In future posts, I will revisit this theme and discuss more about how boards, management and IR departments should adapt to the realities of the day.