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Lights, Camera, Earnings!

Traditionally, earnings calls have been a cut and (very) dry quarterly procedure. But with the emergence of social media and the SEC’s move to embrace them, following is a summer round up of how companies are finding new and creative ways to put a little pizazz into their calls.Yahoo Earnings Call
 
During Yahoo!’s most recent call, CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman appeared on a high-quality streaming video webcast, answering questions from analysts who called in. The company also live-tweeted key messages from their corporate Twitter account.
 
Zillow made a splash with their call in early August as the first company to answer questions submitted live through Twitter and Facebook. Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, answered questions from individual investors, as well as sell-side analysts.  Zillow also leveraged both Twitter and Facebook to tell their story visually, posting infographics with metrics that illustrated recent growth.
 
Like Yahoo!, Netflix participated in live streaming video, but they tweaked their approach to the Q&A session by moderating a panel discussion that included a member of the financial press and a covering sell-side analyst.   Questions were screened in advance for CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells.  The questions were also unattributed.
 
The jury is still out whether more companies will embrace video earnings calls in the near future.  But shareholders seem to like it. Approximately 70% said that compared with audio-only earnings webcasts, video webcasts of a company’s CEO inspire more trust, according to a Shareholder Confidence 365 Study that received responses from nearly 11,000 professional and individual investors.
 
The challenge is training management to feel comfortable in front of a camera.  After all, answering questions with a furrowed brow could have unintended consequences when it comes to instilling confidence in your shareholder base.  Same goes for too much powder!
 
Joanne Sibug, jsibug@pondel.com

AP’s Right ‘Frame’ of Mind

Associated Press Logo

The Associated Press

Soon, reporters at the Associated Press will be equipped with smart phones enabling them to simultaneously report news across all social media platforms, according to insiders at the global wire service.
 
AP reporters, trained to write, will be able and directed to capture video, take wire-worthy photos, tweet live from a news event, and of course, “phone in” stories as appropriate. Incorporating video alongside online news is not exactly brand new, although wire service reporters trained on how to shoot video is something of a paradigm shift in the media reporting business.
 
AP’s move is indicative of the changing media landscape and how some news outlets are responding to today’s highly competitive, multi-media news cycle.  Although wire services have remained relatively unscathed in this new media environment, mostly because of their ability to produce and distribute 24-hour news coverage, editorial staffs still have been cut, and long gone are the days of simply filing news for the next day’s newspaper.
 
What’s interesting is the growing use of video in online news coverage, not to mention how traditional journalists are embracing this medium.  Ironically, a recent survey by PR Newswire found that 75 percent of journalists want to use video when gathering news.  This is a sharp contrast compared to only 43 percent of communications professionals who say video is important to journalists.
 
Video is new again. This is primarily due to the Internet and inexpensive technologies that enable people to shoot, edit and post good quality content.  More than 40 billion videos are viewed in the U.S. each month, says Jonathan Taplin, clinical professor at USC’s Annerberg School for Communication.  There’s also great value, too.  Videos can be shared with key audiences and picked up by online media, but most importantly, the content creates a deeper bond with viewers.  That’s why movies will never go out of out of business.
 
The lesson here is that video dramatically has changed the media landscape.  Remote multi-media reporters with real journalism experience will be the new modern day correspondents of the 21st century. While this sounds like a futuristic science fiction movie plot, the reality is that it’s happening now, not tomorrow or in the near future.

 

George Medici, gmedici@pondel.com
 
 

Video Killed the Radio Star

How much is a YouTube view really worth if the view comes from hiring a marketing firm?  Earlier this month, the L.A. Times reported that Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich paid for YouTube views for his campaign videos promoting his run for district attorney.
 
His videos boasted 725,000 views, with the most popular clip surpassing any campaign video from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, according to the Times.
 
Sounds like payola to me.  But I wonder if some videos need “primer” views to promote organic views. Consider the psychological effects of viewing a clip with tens of thousands of views versus a couple dozen.   The more people that view a clip the more likely other people will view the same clip.  Before you know it, the video goes “viral” and begins to prompt some sort of social movement.  And then, perhaps, a politician is elected, a brand gets sticky, or a warlord is overthrown.
 
By now, many of us have heard about the Invisible Children video that net almost 80 million views in about a week.  Are all of these views organic?  Beats me, but the video’s content is very compelling and probably could have drummed up at least a million views without any help from fluffers.

Video Views

YouTube Video Views

 
The bottom line is that the digital world values transparency, and if you are going to hire a marketing firm to bolster views, perhaps disclosing this fact in the first few seconds of the video would actually enhance the credibility of your message.  After all, it’s a lot easier to disclose upfront that you are artificially inflating video views, as opposed to suffering the consequences of someone else, i.e. the media, disclosing this fact.
 
Even better yet, how about producing video content that is actually worthy of bona fide viewership?

 

– Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

Video Blogging at GHS China Conference

PondelWilkinson is video blogging at http://www.pwcast.com from Global Hunter Securities’ inaugural China Conference July 12-13, 2010 at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco.  The conference will feature approximately 100 China-based companies, most of which have shares that trade on U.S. exchanges.
 
The video blog will showcase interviews with management teams from emerging companies, as well as updates from GHS experts on market conditions in Asia.  You can learn more about the conference here.