NASDAQ as SRO: An Oxymoron

October 10, 2011
by Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President Global Media
 
Neil Hershberg
Neil Hershberg, SVP – Global Media

As a “Self-Regulatory Organization,” NASDAQ is proving to be a poor role model in terms of policing its own policies.

NASDAQ has twice promised the SEC that it would refrain from the unfair and controversial practice of “bundling” its IR Services, e.g. wire distribution and IR web sites, with its listing fees. Yet despite these repeated assurances — concessions made to extract approval of several hefty listing fee hikes — NASDAQ has continued to engage in its anti-competitive practices, blatantly ignoring its compliance commitments.
 
Hence, today’s problematic paradox: in its pedestal role, NASDAQ seeks to portray itself as a bastion of free enterprise, and patron of fair and open competition. When it comes to its own commercial dealings, however, NASDAQ clearly doesn’t practice what it preaches. NASDAQ’s self-serving actions confirm that it is anything but the paragon of capitalism that it purports to be.
 
And, in an act of unquestionable hubris, NASDAQ is now asking the SEC to approve its predatory practices:
 
http://www.sec.gov/rules/sro/nasdaq/2011/34-65324.pdf
 
NASDAQ is apparently seeking to parley the SEC’s recent approval of a change in the NYSE’s Listed Company Manual to rationalize its own proposed rule change. In reality, NASDAQ’s filing is its latest gambit to distort the dynamics of the marketplace, and to leverage its subsidiary holdings to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
 
The key difference between the SEC’s newly approved Section 907.00 in the Big Board rule book and NASDAQ’s rule change request is that the NYSE is recommending independent vendors to its listed companies. Conversely, NASDAQ’s proposal is entirely predicated on its sibling subsidiary’s wholly-owned service offerings, which collectively operate under the “Corporate Solutions” banner. Once the complimentary period expires, all future profits will go straight to NASDAQ’s parent company’s bottom line.
 
This systemic vertical integration provides NASDAQ with the pricing flexibility to artificially manipulate the pricing structure of its offering to the detriment of the entire IR services industry. It makes a mockery of the principle of fair competition, which is especially troubling given NASDAQ’s perceived Olympian stature in the free enterprise system. 
 
Does the SEC really want to be seen as sanctioning NASDAQ’s “stacked deck?”  We certainly hope not, as Americans’ confidence in the nation’s financial system is already seriously challenged.
 
NASDAQ’s opportunistic overture strains credibility on several levels.
 
NASDAQ trumpets that issuers are not obligated to take advantage of its complimentary services; the clear implication is that competition won’t be compromised.
 
Yet, NASDAQ itself says it is compelled to offer NYSE-listed companies complimentary services because the Big Board offers comparable services.
 
This is a tacit acknowledgment that companies are reluctant to forfeit these free services; instead, these “no-cost” services are a powerful incentive for issuers to remain with their current providers.
 
In other words, NASDAQ’s claim of open competition exists in name only.  Budget-conscious issuers are extremely unlikely to pay for services that are freely available. And that means that rival IR service providers are unfairly elbowed out of the process. NASDAQ’s strategy seeks to divert the IPO pipeline to its sister service providers, effectively stanching the future lifeblood — and growth potential — of the IR service industry at large.
 
Furthermore, NASDAQ attempts to rationalize its rule change request by saying that a comparatively small number of issuers will be eligible to participate in the program. This is a vacuous argument that is indicative of NASDAQ’s cynicism in raising the bundling issue in yet another guise.
 
NASDAQ’S rule change request is its latest ploy to “tie” its corporate services to listings.  The SEC has repeatedly rebuffed NASDAQ’s past efforts at bundling its services. NASDAQ’s recycled proposal seeks to provide a cloak of legitimacy to an anti-competitive practice that has failed to survive previous SEC scrutiny.
 
The SEC’s decision should not be influenced by NASDAQ’s understanding of the number of affected companies; rather, its decision should be solely based on the merits of NASDAQ’s proposal. And if market fairness is the one of the ultimate criteria, then the evidence clearly dictates that NASDAQ’s rule change should be rejected.
 
Following is the text of Business Wire’s comment letter to the SEC on NASDAQ’s rule-change proposal:
 
http://www.sec.gov/comments/sr-nasdaq-2011-122/nasdaq2011122-1.pdf
 

NYSE Opening Bell with Warren Buffett: A Day in the Life of SVP of Marketing Tom Becktold

October 10, 2011

Here’s a glimpse into one of the best days I’ve experienced in my 23 years at Business Wire. This is a recap of my experiences planning and participating in the Business Wire 50th Anniversary NYSE Opening Bell events on Friday, September 30.  (Learn more about Tom Becktold)

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We had planned for months – event details, contests, timing, logistics, media interview scheduling.  When the most famous investor in the world accompanies you to the NYSE Opening Bell under the gaze of media, employees and clients to honor the 50th anniversary of your company, you want to get it right.

It was an incredibly exciting day as dozens of our staff were on hand as Warren Buffett joined Business Wire on our big day.

The NYSE hosted a breakfast for the Bellpodium guests in their historic board room, which has played host to heads of state and business leaders for the past century – impressive to say the least.  Joining us were executives from Barclays Bank, including Berkshire Hathaway market maker Jimmy Maguire, who’s been on the trading floor for more than four decades.  NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer welcomed us and presented Business Wire with a framed proclamation honoring our 50thCathy Baron Tamraz and Warren Buffett each made remarks, with Warren pulling out a copy of the letter Cathy sent to him that started the process of Business Wire being purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 2006.

To the Bellpodium we headed at 9:20 am, where we saw BW colleagues and traders cheering us on.  It was a tremendous honor to be among the group on the podium representing the amazing Business Wire team around the globe. Duncanput us all at ease by demonstrating some entertaining clapping styles.

We then headed to the trading floor, which was a frenzy of activity.  Traders wanting Warren Buffett’s autograph or to shake his hand – really everyone there was in awe of him, and he couldn’t have been more gracious.  A trip to the Barclay’s trading desk, and then to a photo op for wire service and news photographers quickly followed, along with a video interview by the NYSE, conducted by their senior media relations manager (and former BW colleague!) Annmarie Gioia.

From there, we split into teams.  Most BW folks headed up to the Board Room or luncheon along with many of our trade press for interviews that have or will be appearing soon.  I stayed with Cathy,Warren and a couple NYSE reps on the floor as we did four live and one taped interview in about an hour – Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg, Nightly Business Report and CNN.  Cathy did a fantastic job summarizing our anniversary and fielding questions along side Buffett (see links to coverage below).

Our luncheon then took center stage, with more than 225 in attendance, including BW staff, Berkshire colleagues, executives at our top clients and agencies, executives and reporters from our trade media and major media – Fortune, CNBC, industry influencers like Jeff Morgan, head of NIRI, among others.

The luncheon opened with remarks by Cathy where she introduced our College Video Contest winner, Jenna Marie James.  Jenna has become quite the celebrity as a result of winning our contest to come to NY to meet Warren Buffett.  She’s been interviewed by newspapers and radio stations in her home state of Indiana (she’s a senior at Ball State University), and did a live interview with the CBS Early Show on the morning of the event.  She’s pretty amazing and her videos are great fun to watch.

We then played our 50th Anniversary Video, produced for the event, featuring interviews with BW execs, and followed with a toast by Gregg Castano.

After lunch, Cathy did an interview with Warren Buffett and then opened the floor to questions from the audience.  The subjects covered were timely and Buffett’s comments were informative and in his disarming style.  He touched on the European debt crisis and his thoughts on the Euro surviving (they need a more unified monetary policy or need to break up) to the “Buffett tax” (he jokingly said he always wanted a tax named after him) to our economy (watch housing starts – we need to the number of households, which will take time, to absorb the available housing; when we have a million new housing starts a year, the economy will be back).

The luncheon wrapped at about 2:30 with Buffett signing autographs and posing for pictures with our clients.  The feedback, tweets and blog posts we’ve received indicate that Friday was a resounding success!

Happy 50th Business Wire!

Television Coverage Highlights

CNBC Squawk on the Street (CNBC link)

CNN Newsroom (CNN link)

Fox Business News (Fox Biz link)

Bloomberg In the Loop (Bloomberg link)

PBS Nightly Business Report (PBS link)

CBS The Early Show (CBS link) interview with our College Video Contest Winner Jenna Marie James, also covered on local television stations, including ABC-Channel 8/Omaha, CBS-Channel 5/San Francisco, CBS-Channel 8/Indianapolis.

Trade Coverage Highlights

IR Magazine/Inside Investor Relations

http://www.insideinvestorrelations.com/articles/ir-tv/18503/warren-buffett-and-business-wire/

Warren Buffett and Business Wire bring cheer to Wall Street

Happy 50th anniversary, Business Wire

PR Newser

http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/warren-buffett-business-wire-celebrate-50-years-at-the-nyse_b28023

Warren Buffett, Business Wire Celebrate 50 Years at the NYSE

PR Week

http://www.prweekus.com/buffetts-communications-advice-keep-it-simple/article/213288/

CommPro.biz

http://blog.commpro.biz/irthereforeiam/?p=1094

Great Partners: Warren Buffett Helps Celebrate Business Wire’s 50th Anniversary at NYSE

PRSA Tactics and NIRI IR Update are planning pieces for their print editions.

Feintuch Communications (client/guest, Henry Feintuch)

http://prniblets.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-lunch-with-warren-buffett-and.html


Business Wire Boston Celebrates 50 Years, Hosts Publisher of The Boston Globe

October 7, 2011

by Rachel Gould, Senior Client Services Representative,
Business Wire Boston

Boston-area clients and friends of Business Wire, including members of the media, gathered at the Boston Harbor Hotel on Oct. 4 to celebrate our landmark anniversary.  The event featured a keynote address from Christopher Mayer, Publisher of The Boston Globe, and a champagne toast to commemorate the occasion.

Mayer discussed the recent launch of BostonGlobe.com as a separate entity from Boston.com, including the new paywall for content and better understanding the diverse interests of their online readers.

Through research, Mayer’s team discovered that more than 50 percent of the people accessing Boston.com were not aware they were reading The Boston Globe.  He explained that while the Globe has an expansive online audience, the readership is fragmented and has forced the organization to adapt and focus on how they are connecting with readers.

The Boston Globe has the traditional role of producing quality journalism, but Mayer said in today’s media environment, success is just as much about being a facilitator of content and connecting advertisers to readers.

For a more detailed overview, check out this blog post by Bill McLaughlin, EVP of Lois Paul & Partners, who interviewed Christopher Mayer after his talk.

Check out some great pictures from the event:

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Hispanic Media Experts Advise DC-Area Audience on Marketing to Latinos

October 6, 2011
by Danny Selnick, Vice President, Public Policy Services

Business Wire’s LatinoWire hosted a panel  event for professional communicators on Sept. 28 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The panel featured:

  • Erica Gonzalez, Executive Editor of El Diario/La Prensa
  • Julio Aliaga, News Director, Telemundo (Washington, DC affiliate)
  • Hilda Garcia, Vice President of Multiplatform Content and Information for impreMedia
  • Charlie Ericksen, Managing Editor and founder of Hispanic Link
Danny Selnick, Julio Aliaiga, Erica Gonzales, Hilda Garcia and Charlie Ericksen

L-R: Danny Selnick, Julio Aliaga, Erica Gonzales, Hilda Garcia. Seated: Charlie Ericksen. Photo by: Michael Toner/Business Wire

Moderated by Danny Selnick, vice president for Business Wire’s Public Policy Services, panel members all underscored the notion that professional communicators must understand the particular needs and interests of this ethnic community and the Hispanic media that is in touch with their readers, viewers and listeners — only with that understanding can communicators successfully connect.

Key points made by each panelist:

Erica Gonzalez:

Erica pointed out that it is important to understand the history of Hispanic journalism.  Spanish-language media should be treated as a valid news outlet – not a 2nd class one.   Your news should relate to the audience – just because it has been translated into Spanish doesn’t qualify it as being newsworthy to the audience.

Read the rest of this entry »


Happy Birthday Business Wire: Looking Back, Forward…it’s STILL All About Relationships

October 5, 2011

by Mike Maguire, National Editorial Supervisor

The big day has come and gone.  Business Wire is 50 years old and we celebrated in grand style  with company executives led by Chairman and CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange with Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway – our parent company.

Business Wire rings the opening bell at the NYSE September 30, 2011

Business Wire rings the opening bell at the NYSE September 30, 2011 (Photo by Ben Hider/NYSE Euronext)

As 9:30 last Friday quickly approached, and our team took the podium, I couldn’t help but think back over the past two decades that I have been a part of Business Wire. We’ve come a long way and to be part of a day that brought Business Wire VIPs in from across the country together with our clients and other distinguished people is a day I won’t soon forget.

After the Opening Bell, media conducted interviews of Tamraz and Buffett, including Andrew Sorkin of CNBC, Liz Claman of Fox Business News and Susie Gharib of PBS Nightly Business Report.   At 11 am, a luncheon took place with more than 200 attendees, including our College Contest winner Jenna Marie James from Ball State University.

A viewing of our 50th Anniversary Video was on tap next, followed by Business Wire President Gregg Castano leading a congratulatory toast. During a Q & A with Tamraz, Buffett and the audience,  Buffett opined on the current state of the economy, taxing the wealthy, doing business in China, President Obama as a CEO, and investor relations.

In anticipation of the day, I had coordinated the receipt of proclamations from the mayors in 17 cities of offices where we conduct business. The proclamation from New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg read in part:

`Throughout our history, New York City has been proud to be an engine for economic growth worldwide. Even during these challenging times, more and more companies are locating or expanding here, including firms focused on international business and financial reporting. Of course, in a former life, I was one such small business owner, and I am proud to say New York’s future looks brighter than ever thanks to its status as a leader in the financial news industry. That is why we are honored to join Business Wire in celebrating its 50th Anniversary.’

Those words, along with a blog post from long time client Gene Marbach from Makovsky and Co. about the relationships between clients and companies sum up the significance of 50 years in business:  it is truly golden!

To see more birthday photos, check out our 50th birthday scrapbook on Facebook.


Tumblr, Storify and More: Journalists Embracing New Media Tools, PR Community Should, Too

October 4, 2011
by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago

Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager

Attending the recent Online News Association (ONA) conference in Boston inspired me to step up my social tech tools game. Christine Montgomery, managing editor of PBS.org and ONA president characterized the recent meeting as “the intersection of journalism and technology….where members come together to reinvent journalism.”

Journalists have learned their lessons, no longer lagging behind as their audience embraces change. These digital reporters are among a group not only embracing new media tools, but shouting their praises from roof tops.

But are PR people are listening?   We hope so.  The PR community would benefit by getting familiar with the new media tools described below.  Take a look.

Tumblr

Tumblr has been around, but tripled its audience in the last year to more than 28 million blogs, igniting new interest. People are ready for the next big thing and Telegraph.co.uk says Tumblr is “to weblogs what text messages are to email – short, to the point, and direct.”  Reporters love that Tumblr rewards original or unique material. Posting the most interesting information from a story is a great way for them to repurpose content.  Fun and lively photos are great “Tumblr bait” and often get reblogged and shared.

PR APPLICATION: Brands using Tumblr include Huggies, General Electric and J.Crew. Does your organization have great photos sitting in a boring photo archive? Recycle that content and create a Tumblr feed.  Do your clients have great quotes in their press releases? Share them on Tumblr.

Storify

Changing the way reporters find sources and incorporate social network content into their online news stories,  Storify allows for better story telling by helping the “writer” to easily drop in content from social sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.  Melanie Eversley of USA Today used Storify to recap her lasting lessons from the National Association of Black Journalist’s convention in August.  The Bay Area News Group tapped Storify to cover Obama’s town hall with Linkedin employees.

PR APPLICATION: PR people strive to share great stories, too. Your next op-ed piece could look completely different using Storify. Right now we see it being used for sharing resources, but imagine creating a page about a product and dropping in selected customer feedback from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook–then sending it to all your networks.

Brand Pages on Google+

If Nike says it’s gotta be the shoes, Google would say it’s gotta be the circles. The excitement around the Google+ branded pages results from the idea that engaged brands might see better ad tracking, better search ranking on Google and the ability to create segmented target audiences into circles on Google+. This feature is not available yet, but Google says brand pages are coming soon.

PR APPLICATION: Brands could create unique messages and use this enhanced targeting for reaching segments of their consumer base, i.e. women or men, baby boomers or gen y’ers.  They could have conversations with their industry reporters and their internal experts.

And last, but not least…Failure

I know what you’re thinking:   failure isn’t a tool, but it is.

If you spend too much time thinking about the why, and the ROI you may never try anything. To borrow a tweet from @mbgelman:

“Sometimes it’s quicker and easier to try something than it is to debate about trying something.”

PR APPLICATION: More companies should reward failure – or at least the attempt at innovation.  Failure breeds better ideas. Are you doing anything new and exciting with your communication outreach? More wisdom from an ONA attendee @christopherwink

When you do something groundbreaking, it won’t be comfortable.”


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