Investors roam free with podcasting
Seeking to fish where the fish are, IROs have cast lures into a range of new media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. One popular medium – the podcast – has remained conspicuously unexplored but evidence is mounting that in an increasingly mobile world, demand for IR content could be on the up.
Popularized by Apple’s iTunes platform, podcasts are downloadable audio or video files commonly accessed via mobile devices. Users typically get automatic alerts as new podcasts become available. While firmly mainstream, only a handful of companies see value in the technology as a means to engage investors, and the group of podcast pioneers includes major players like IBM, BP and Johnson & Johnson.
One financial analyst drawn to podcasting’s mobile convenience is James Wicklund, an energy specialist and managing director of equity research at Credit Suisse. Dallas-based Wicklund typically listens to several earnings call podcasts while driving to his ranch (almost all new cars sold in the US have an option for mobile device integration).
‘Who wants to eat up an hour of time listening to a phone replay?’ he asks. ‘What if I’m on the road and drop the call or get distracted at the McDonald’s Drive-Thru? I can get a streaming link on an airplane but still must buy the WiFi. I’d rather simply have it on my MP3 player and listen how I want.’
Perhaps one factor hindering podcasting’s resonance with IROs is the challenge of analyzing listenership. ‘Most of our clients want MP3 files posted on their website or distributed through their app,’ explains Duane Bayley, director of operations for multimedia and language services at CNW Group. ‘That way they can get analytical feedback on listeners and demonstrate a return on the investment.’
Still, some investors complain about the reams of personal information they must frequently divulge to access conference calls. Meanwhile, a recent NASDAQ OMX survey of analysts and investors finds 25 percent griping that conference calls and presentations are often hard to find or else missing altogether from corporate websites.
For a small but growing clientele, one work-around is EarningsCast, a service that aggregates thousands of earnings calls and offers both live web streaming and downloading onto the iTunes library. ‘Our users love being a single click away from an earnings call,’ says Kevin Doerr, founder of Archimedes Labs, a Palo Alto-based start-up focused on the mobile experience. ‘[Anything more complicated] is antithetical to how the web and mobile apps work.’
Noting growing investor concern about transparency, Doerr feels companies that are ambivalent or unwilling to exploit all and every opportunity to make their message readily consumable and widely distributed are significantly handicapped when attempting to influence value perception. ‘We are sort of flummoxed this kind of content is so hard to get,’ he remarks.
‘There is clearly an audience for user-friendly podcasts of earnings calls and other IR presentations,’ concludes Tim Howard, CEO of social media strategist IR Smartt. ‘And with so few firms IR podcasting, early adopters will gain extra exposure and a competitive edge.’
Pod life: BP’s iTunes page features earnings calls, speeches and more