Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Can Sponsored Content Be Used to Reach Potential Investors?

In one way or another we’ve all been exposed to Buzzfeed. They’re masters of producing viral content that spreads quickly around the web (think: pictures of cute cats).

More important, they’re also behind what’s arguably the most effective marketing tool to hit the Internet in years: sponsored content.

“Sponsored content” is content that marketers create to pitch their products, services, and stories to readers of high-trafficked websites. It’s increasingly considered more effective than banner ads.

Sponsored content is designed to enhance the online reader experience. It’s positioned to be largely indistinguishable from other content on a given website (i.e. sports content on a site like

Sponsored Content & Investor Relations

For marketers pitching stories online, sponsored content opens up vast new opportunities.

I can think of no group better positioned to capitalize on the “sponsored content” phenomenon than investor relations departments looking to pitch their investment stories to new investors online.

IR pros have vast amounts of unique, actionable financial content on their IR websites and until now they’ve had few opportunities to deploy that content to reach investors online.

There’s no better example of unique, actionable, financial content than what Brad Miller has assembled on the corporate IR website of small-cap Gigamedia (Ticker: GIGM).

Brad’s unique investor pitch has three components:

If I were to visit an IR website to research a company I’m unfamiliar with, this is exactly the type of content I would want to find. It tells me the story of the company quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

The problem is I don’t typically visit IR websites. Instead I, like many investors, typically visit investment analysis sites like (& StockTwits…) to research new companies.

As for IR director Brad Miller, he’s not the only IR pro with great content and limited opportunities to deploy it.

Over the years, I’ve seen many great examples of valuable, actionable financial content sitting largely undiscovered on IR websites including:
  • Transcripts of earnings calls;
  • Transcripts of investor conference presentations & the subsequent Q&As;
  • PowerPoint presentations from investor conference appearances or roadshows;
  • Transcripts of Q&A sessions at recent annual meetings;
  • ...and the list goes on.

All of this great content would be better served on platforms like investment analysis site where investors can be found researching stocks.

With its millions of unique monthly visitors, has the ability to expose IR content to new investors. On TheStreet, small-cap companies have a chance of being discovered.

Since reaching new investors is one of the biggest challenges small and mid-cap public companies face, leveraging sponsored content opportunities presents a compelling solution to a difficult problem.

Off the top of my head I can imagine IR pros creating other useful, valuable, actionable content to function as sponsored content including:
  • “10 Important Takeaways from Today’s Earnings Call”
  • “10 Important Takeaways from Today’s Annual Meeting”
  • “10 Important Takeaways from Today’s Presentation at the Goldman Sachs Conference”


Thanks to Buzzfeed, sponsored content is now a mainstream marketing solution.

In theory, it’s also the perfect solution for IR pros looking to pitch new investors online at scale using platforms other than their own IR websites. After all, most investors don’t visit IR websites.

As for third-party investment analysis sites like, competition is fierce. They’re desperate for high-quality content to feed their voracious readers and generate more revenue as ad rates decline.

It’s only a matter of time before these two get together and forge a mutually beneficial relationship. Everyone involved has something to gain.

DISCLOSURE: I’m one of the core group who built the blog Seeking Alpha. While there in 2007, I developed and sold a sponsored content product to 100s of public companies. More here.



Darrell Heaps said...

Great post Ezra, very compelling point of view.

Do you think content from IR websites would need to be re-written to be syndicated like this, or straight republishing would work? Using Giga as an example, would you see putting this content into a new format or simply using sponsored content to link to it?

David Collins said...

Ezra - you are absolutely right!

The biggest challenge, particularly in small cap IR, is to "hook" new investors - not provide a fire hose of words, data or info. Once an investor is hooked, they know where to go to do their research – and even there we can be doing more to facilitate their review.

We all need to think about the purpose of each communication and then leverage new communications paradigms to make our efforts more successful in reaching and informing NEW investors – not just the old guard.

What we typically see from companies is the ancient structure and rigidity of a formal news release – designed for a world when type was set by hand and news traveled slowly. News organizations appreciated our efforts to put the numbers into words because it helped them develop their copy. But that’s no longer the case in an instantaneous disclosure world.

Today’s releases are wordy, boring and more often than not, they do a better job of obfuscating key metrics rather than elucidating them! It’s sort of embarrassing for us in the profession to see what gets issued.

What you suggest makes perfect sense in a general way, so the issue is how to get that more relevant and effective content in front of new eyeballs? is great – but you need them to decide to run your story.

In the interim, there are outlets like StockTwits, SeekingAlpha, Motley Fool, TickerSpy and hordes of others where you can link/post/cross reference – to get your new-age media in front of new investors.

It’s exciting and about time we in the IR world take better advantage of what technology has afforded us!

Ezra Marbach said...

@darrellheaps Some of the IR content definitely needs to be re-written for publishing elsewhere. But some, like PPTs, can be republished as is -- but in a different format. PDF is the wrong format if you want to be quoted or linked to etc.

There's so much great content on IR sites. But people are fundamentally lazy. They're not going to do the work to find the valuable info. But if you feed it to them similar to what Business Insider does with their slideshows and "10 Takeaways" then IR folks have a chance of being discovered -- through sponsoring that content elsewhere.

I love what GIga has done. But I bet few are reading it. They need a presence outside of their IR website to get attention. Without attention, few come to their site.