Friday, August 15, 2008

Electronic Shareholder Forums gaining momentum

Electronic shareholder forums, also known as e-shareholder forums (like what iMiners announced in June with our turnkey solution eShareholderForum: continue to gain momentum and visibility as a truly viable way for companies to engage in dialogue with shareholders using "Web 2.0" technology. Our own solution has already been positively received in the market, and yesterday on its earnings conference call Broadridge CEO Rich Daly announced plans to launch an "investor network" linking all "validated shareholders" with companies they are invested in (for more information visit the IR Web Report blog here

The SEC's encouragement of companies using new technologies to facilitate communications is finally starting to take off, and we think that in the not too distant future shareholder forums will become standard on many company IR websites (at least for those companies not afraid to embrace new technologies, and not afraid to have a dialogue with shareholders).

Since the late 1990s most companies have maintained content on IR websites where they deposit information for investors (and prospective investors) to read/view. What has been lacking in IR websites is a two way dialogue between the company and shareholders. But electronic shareholder forums are already beginning to change the way IR websites are viewed. No longer just a depository for information, IR websites will be a place for any shareholder, prospective shareholder, employee, supplier, etc. to come and engage in a dialogue with a company, virtually real-time, and the flow of information will be streamlined and "democratized" (in the words of Rob Williams, Sr. Director of IR at Dell, in his description of Dell's IR blog called Dell Shares).

Companies have been searching for ways to lure investors from financial portal sites to their IR sites so they can tell their own story in their own words (several studies show declining use of company IR websites over the past few years). Company sponsored electronic shareholder forums represent a new and unique "hook" for companies to drive traffic to their IR site, by promising to engage in a dialogue with investors. Who would go to Yahoo! Finance to view company financial information and a third-party message board (where anyone can post anything they want, and the company does not participate) if a company provides unique content on their own IR site PLUS a link to their electronic shareholder forum where the company engages in the message boards, posts to a blog, conducts online Q&A with shareholders, and conducts real-time polling of relevant issues to get a quick pulse of what is on shareholders' minds?

We welcome these continued developments, and look forward to introducing eShareholderForum to as many companies as are willing to engage in this type of online dialogue with shareholders!

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