This past Thursday evening I attended a special event at the Paley Center for Media, The Changing World of News: How to Thrive and Survive During a Meltdown. When the invite arrived, in my BurrellesLuce email box, the title almost automatically demanded that I attend.
The program was co-presented by the Financial Times (FT) and introduced by J. Max Robins, Paley’s vice president and executive director of Industry Programs. Paul Murphy, the editor of the blog FT Alphaville moderated. On the panel were Stacey-Marie Ishmael, reporter for FT Alphaville, Robert Passarella of Dow Jones, and Rick Bookstaber, an author and former managing director at Salomon Brothers.
As might be expected, the evening’s discussion centered around the recent turmoil in the markets and the role media played, as well as how media is evolving and affecting PRs (what the Brits succinctly call PR professionals), news, and the companies being covered.
Murphy is one of two FT journalists who comment live on market activity via FT Alphaville. Posting from London, their comments overlap with the opening of the U.S. markets. Murphy notes that consumers of news trend more towards summaries of news delivered via PDAs, rather than desktop or printed formats. I’ve sure heard a lot at PR conferences about how to effectively take advantage of social media, but I’ve heard nothing about how to leverage the format of the small PDA screen.
Vetting Third-Party Content …for a Fee
Another interesting concept Murphy highlighted was “The Long Room,” a section on Alphaville that for a fee, and vetted by the FT, third parties offer their opinions and expertise on financial matters of the day. I think we’ll see more of this interesting use of journalism/credibility of media, and the monetization of content. Ishmael, a London FT reporter now based in NYC, underscores this point by stating she now spends half her day reading and researching the comments section on Alphaville as they yield excellent sources for future reporting.
Passarella noted many newly unemployed Wall Streeter analysts are hanging out their own shingle and leveraging the web and social media to showcase their expertise and land clients. He foresees value in the aggregation of sector-specific news, as it would provide a broader landscape for organizations to cover financial news, but is unsure what the monetization of that model will be. For PRs, it means the same: even more voices to track in an ever-faster and more competitive information marketplace.
An Unpredictable Game of Dominos
The evening also included a presentation by Bookstaber who stated the recent market turmoil was a leveraged crises cycle. Bookstaber illustrated this by pointing out that when certain entities have large leveraged positions in an area heading south, they must sell other assets in large quantities to cover their losses. You can’t predict what markets will be affected as it is unknown who holds what. Case in point: the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market in the 1980s. When that collapsed, the Hunts covered their losses by selling their biggest holdings, cattle. The Hunt’s large sales of cattle trigged price drops in that market.
Bookstaber showed other instances similar to the silver-cattle model. He believes government regulation has a role here – identifying unknown positions and using that knowledge to perhaps head off future market meltdowns. For PRs, this should sound a familiar theme of transparency, and if Bookstaber’s model comes to be, another interesting communications challenge on both the buy and sell sides of the market.