SLIDESHARE, best known as a presentation sharing service, has launched three new paid accounts with features that may appeal to investor relations departments looking for ways to spread their stories online and improve the user experience of their IR websites.
A growing number of companies are using SlideShare for investor relations presentations. The main reasons for doing so are for exposure to SlideShare’s 1 million daily visitors, to enable the spread of company information on the web through embedding, and to provide presentations in a format that is quicker to view than PDF.
All in all, every IR department should already be using SlideShare and other document sharing websites, and those that don’t are missing out (which is 95% of companies).
But that was before the “pro” account options were launched. Do these new options make the service any more attractive and should you pull out your credit card to pay? That’s what I’ll try to answer here, but first let’s look at what the new accounts offer.
There are three levels of pro account:
- Sliver costs $19 per month. For that you get no ads on your profile page and fewer on your individual presentation pages on SlideShare. You also get 30 “leads” per month through the LeadShare feature, which is basically a contact form integrated into your presentation so people can leave you a message. Additionally, you can use SlideShare to upload HD videos (non-HD is free) and some basic analytics on usage.
- Gold costs $49 per month. You get everything in the Silver package plus ad-free individual presentation pages and a “branded channel” that you can design to look more like your website. You get a total of 70 leads per month.
- Platinum costs $249 per month and is the plan SlideShare is targeting to IR departments. For that you can turn off comments and block the plain text view. You also get more bespoke customization options.
Here’s a table that summarizes the options:
What’s worth paying for?
The big appeal of the new pro accounts is that they remove advertising from your company’s SlideShare profile page, and from your individual presentations pages at the gold or platinum level. Anyone who has seen ads alongside an investor relations presentation on SlideShare knows how that can cheapen the experience.
But the fact is, there is already a free way for companies to provide SlideShare presentations without advertising. All you have to do is embed the presentation on your own website. Your presentation will still appear on SlideShare and be exposed to the full audience there, but people on your website see the presentation embed without the ads.
However, there’s a catch when you embed a presentation on your site. Doing so exposes information about traffic to your website to the public, including competitors and investors. SlideShare tracks and reports publicly the number of times the embedded presentation is viewed on your site (see screenshot). This can tell competitors and investors how popular your website is. And since awareness is ultimately what drives stock prices, it could be information you don’t want to share.
Now some companies don’t care about exposing their website traffic, but a lot of the ones we speak to do care. That’s why we’ve always cautioned companies about placing embeddable documents on their own websites. It may be better just to link to them on the document sharing service’s website instead. This would apply to any kind of content sharing service that publishes embed views.
Of course, until now the downside of linking to your presentations on SlideShare has been those pesky ads (they’re not half as bad as some other sites), and the fact that the nicer format isn’t immediately available on your website.
But now with the new pro accounts, you can get rid of the ads, which is indeed something worth paying for. The question, though, is how much is it worth?
If you take the silver package ($228 per year), ads are only removed from your company’s profile page, so you’ll be linking to a page that contains all of your company’s shared presentations, documents and videos. That’s not a bad thing, but if an investor is trying to find a presentation you uploaded a year ago it might not be easy to find.
At the gold level ($588 per year), however, ads are removed from each presentation page and you get to brand the page with your logo. That means you can provide a nice landing page for investors when you link them through to your individual SlideShare presentations and to your SlideShare profile page.
Ideally, though, and this is where SlideShare has missed the boat, you should have the ability at the gold level to hide embed views on your own website from the public. That would allow you to embed a presentation without worrying about what traffic information you are leaking.
SlideShare should offer a branded embed viewer at the gold level. This is currently a free option on Docstoc, which does not expose embed views to the public. Scribd also does not expose embed views, and it already supports HTML5, which SlideShare plans to do in the next several weeks.
Bottom line: If you don’t care about exposing your site’s traffic, then the gold package is a fair service for the price.
IR departments should not turn off comments
It looks to me as if SlideShare isn’t getting good information about the IR market. In their promo for the platinum package they say you can “turn off comments if you are in a regulated industry like Investor Relations.”
That’s nonsense because there is no regulatory reason from a securities perspective to shut down comments on typical investor presentations. The SEC has said quite clearly that companies are not responsible for third-party comments, period.
No matter how much you fear what people might say about your company, shutting down comments is bad IR. It says you’re not interested in feedback and you might actually have something to hide. If you don’t want comments, just stay away from social media because you’re not ready for it.
That said, however, turning off comments may be a feature that companies in the pharmaceuticals industry need until there is clearer guidance from the Federal Drug Administration on what their responsibilities and obligations are in a social media context (expected later this year).
Basically, pharma companies don’t have to turn off comments, but they do it for expediency. This informative presentation by pharmaceutical marketing expert John Mack (on SlideShare) goes into detail on the issue of adverse event reporting and social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I like SlideShare a lot. As I said at the outset, all IR departments should already be using the free service because there’s no downside to doing so.
But they need to offer more if they want to attract most investor relations departments.