Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TheStreet.com – The Next Social Media Powerhouse?


A couple of weeks ago Josh Brown AKA “The Reformed Broker” penned a decisive 10-point turnaround plan for TheStreet.com. TheStreet’s new management team would be wise to take note.

But while I agree with many of Josh’s insightful recommendations, our opinions diverge when it comes to social media.

According to his post:
“TheStreet needs to stop worrying about its "social media strategy." It doesn't have one. It missed the boat. But here's the good news - no one else in the space has a working social media strategy either.”
From my perspective, TheStreet has definitely NOT missed the boat on social media.

In fact, having built and executed on a social media strategy for a competing financial content site, I believe TheStreet has all the tools it needs to re-emerge as a social community platform capable of generating massive amounts of original user content (and thus traffic, pageviews, and revenue).

Here’s how this can happen:

1. Extend the Conversation -- Mad Money to TheStreet: TST co-founder Jim Cramer’s daily Mad Money TV CEO interviews are chock full of valuable information. Until now the interviews started and ended on TV.

By providing a transcript online, TheStreet would give readers the full written interview as well as a platform to continue the conversation Cramer initiated on TV. While many sites provide Mad Money CEO interview summaries, none provide entire transcripts that can be shared, linked to, quoted from both on and off TheStreet.

No doubt Cramer could facilitate this post-Mad Money online conversation using his TV pulpit and his Twitter account driving viewers and readers to TheStreet. After all, Cramer answers stock questions on Twitter 24/7. That conversation could all be happening on TheStreet thereby driving more traffic, pageviews and revenue to the site.

2. Soliciting Questions for Mad Money CEO Interviews: Cramer should be using TheStreet to exclusively announce his upcoming Mad Money CEO guest list at the beginning of each week and offer site readers the opportunity to pose questions the best of which he uses on the show.

Cramer recently experimented with something along these lines using Twitter (#MadTweets). Doing this regularly and exclusively on TheStreet would drive more traffic, pageviews and revenue to the site.

3. Soliciting Questions for Earnings Calls: Earnings calls are one of the few opportunities public companies have to pitch their stories to investors. The more questions participants ask during Q&A, the more opportunity for management to provide color.

With the sell-side shrinking, fewer analysts participate on calls and fewer questions are asked. This leaves public companies fewer opportunities to present their investment merits.

But change is now taking place in this area -- which provides opportunity for TheStreet.

As FedEx (FDX) recently demonstrated, public companies are taking new steps to increase Q&A participation by tapping social media for user-generated questions. TheStreet can be THAT social media source.

TheStreet could become known as the go-to site for earnings call questions. As a result, they could establish relationships with many thousands of public companies they could then convert to paying customers (see next bullets).

4. Investor Conferences with a Twist – From Offline to Online: In his turnaround plan for TheStreet, Josh Brown AKA @ReformedBroker mentioned annual investor conferences as one of the many opportunities TheStreet has to transform itself. But why just one conference per year? Why not more than one -- and with a twist that generates lots of original content online?

Consider that public companies typically pay many thousands of dollars each year to speak at investor conferences with little to show for it. TheStreet should package their conferences as both an offline and online opportunity.

For prospective public company CEO attendees, TheStreet’s pitch should be:
“Pay to present at TheStreet investor conference and you’ll get your story in front of not only top-shelf institutional folks at the conference itself, but also in front of the millions of investors who read TheStreet.com online each month.”
How?

TheStreet will transcribe the 20-30 minute CEO presentations from its investor conference and post the transcripts online, thereby vastly increasing their exposure. As a result, CEOs get their stories out to a much wider audience than simply those in attendance. At the same time, TheStreet also provides a forum online to continue the conversation way beyond conclusion of the conference. This is great for public companies looking for attention.

5. Sponsored Content: Public companies have troves of valuable financial content sitting idly on their lightly-trafficked IR websites waiting for investors to find it. That content could go a lot further elsewhere on platforms like TheStreet where public companies can reach new or potential investors.

For example, transcripts of investor conference presentations are the most valuable and underutilized piece of financial content public companies have in their arsenal. CEOs use investor conference presentations to tell their story in brief. Transcripts of those presentations could easily function as ads ("sponsored content") targeting new investors/readers on TheStreet. And, of course, it’s also content that can be easily shared, linked to, and quoted from.

TheStreet should launch a sponsored content service hosting public companies’ financial content that would not only be useful to their site readers but also generate revenue.

And to take "sponsored content" a step further, TheStreet could host community-driven Q&As with public company CEOs similar to what Motley Fool has done in the past. This would give attention to those small-cap CEOs who may not be appropriate for Mad Money but who could benefit from exposure to TheStreet’s investor community on the hunt for new opportunities.

Conclusion: So, TheStreet has not missed the boat on social media. In fact, it’s uniquely positioned with the ultimate evangelist at the helm to transform itself into a powerful social platform for user-generated financial discussion.

I’ve already had great success with some of the strategies discussed above. They are low-cost solutions that can lead to massive traffic, tons of page views, increased revenue AND a new life for TheStreet.

We’ll have to wait and see if this latest management team can reverse the decline and execute a fresh strategy. Between Josh Brown’s 10-point plan and the ideas presented here they have a blueprint for moving forward.

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1 comment:

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