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Lou Kerner: The First Wall Street Social Media Analyst

1 Apr

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

First off, when I was writing this title (the most straightforward one I could think of – it helps search engines find your material), my mind immediately went to the new film version of Marvel’s patriotic peacekeeper, which is titled Captain America: The First Avenger. I’m pretty sure though that no one is planning on making a blockbuster film called The Wall Street Social Media Analysts. Pretty sure.

But anyway, enough of hypothetical financial superhero crossovers, let’s get to the meat of the article. Last week, Private Equity Hub sent out a press release about Lou Kerner, who they say is – yep, you guessed it – the first Wall Street social media analyst. (The press release is blocked by a pay wall, but you can get the gist of it here.)

I’m going to interrupt the flow a bit here just to clear up an ambiguity – when I first read “Wall Street social media analyst”, I was unclear as to what it meant. Were they saying that Kerner was the first person on Wall Street to analyse social media companies, or that he was the first person to analyse Wall Street via social media? It turns out, they meant the former – Kerner speculates on the stock prices of Twitter and Facebook and whatnot. However, he does post financial comments on Twitter (@loukerner), so technically both are true.

But anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so Lou is apparently the first social media analyst on Wall Street. I have to admit, this struck me as a bit odd. Why? Well…

It’s Been a Long Time Coming

I guess the thing that most took me by surprise is the fact this has only just happened. I mean, Facebook’s been around since 2004. I first became aware of it in my first year of university (late 2009), and by the end of the academic year it was massive in the UK (Compete.com had already ranked it the most popular social media website in the world in January 2009).

The point I’m making is, why did it take so long for the business world to notice that there might be something in this social media malarkey? That maybe it was something worth reporting on? That maybe there was some money to be made form it? I mean, Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook, for those of you like me who couldn’t be bothered to see The Social Network) became the world’s youngest billionaire in 2008. You’d think that’s the kind of thing Wall Street would hear about.

The Social Network

I mean, I know I didn't see it, but come on, the film of his life won three Oscars.

And it’s not like Lou Kerner stumbled across this stuff over night. He definitely knew about Facebook – he offered to buy a stake in it when Zuckerberg was still at Harvard (Will Wall Street’s social media analyst roll eyes or turn heads?). He’s been talking to the press about the importance of social media since 2003. And yet when he said two years ago that Facebook would one day be worth $100bn he was laughed at.

It seems to me that the world of business – and business journalism – needs to get with the programme. (Or should that be program? Sorry, grammar joke.) I’m not saying social media is the be all and end all of economics, but Facebook is now worth $85bn. Lou Kerner is going to do very well for himself if he stays as Wall Street’s only social media analyst.

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Integrating TV and social networks.

26 Mar

by Georgina Leggate @GeorginaLeggate

Multi tasking, multi media, multiple screens…..No longer does our generation sit down and watch a program from start to finish without tweeting our friends, or updating our Facebook status’. We actively switch our eyes from one screen to another, whenever we sit down to ‘watch’ a television program ! A recent study from marketing agency Digital Clarity found that 80% of under-25s used a second screen to communicate with friends while watching the TV and 72% used Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app to comment on shows. It’s just the norm. Facebooking and Tweeting whilst watching the telly is something we all do. It is how we communicate our ideas and it gives the viewers a chance to give their opinion on something, or let the organisers or broadcasters know what their audiences are thinking. More importantly than that though is social media enables TV executives to engage with their existing audience.

Some would argue (me included) that the resposes from these sites are sources of journalism in themselves. However informal they may seem to a person sitting at home, they are confirmed reports on an issue, a person, a program and they shape the way broadcasters consider output. It also enables the broadcasters to act on what their viewers’ responses are. These comments and the feedback which is collected  is data journalism in its rawest form.

So let’s say it’s a parallel; social networks working along side television. Our generation of TV watchers have been the first to see social networks intergrated into TV. Regularly now, we are asked to tweet about a program or to send our responses to the program in via Twitter. Texting or calling chat shows, is most defintely old news. What we’re watching out for now is not only social networking in TV,(we see that regularly on ‘@Question Time, @BBC Breakfast, @Daybreak, @Channel4news or Sky’s famous @AdamBoulton &co!) but how the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be integrated to create an interactive show. However this is something very big and it has its complications. On 28th Febraury 2011 the ban on TV product placement, in the UK, was lifted. Thus allowing advertiserers to pay for their goods to be seen on British TV for the first time ever..but what happens if social media complicates matters more?!

Say, for example, Colgate toothpaste is used in a popular soap opera such as Coronation Street (strange example I know, but bare with me!) Given that products can’t be given undue prominence during the show, and may only be given a fleeting moment on screen to avoid programmes becoming ‘brand vehicles’, could the association be further highlighted through social media? Could Colgate use social media in a way that utilises its connection with Coronation Street to help increase consumer recall?

It’s an issue which both concerns and exites me. On the one hand I think that it is an exciting development in the world of social networking! On the other it hasn’t yet been proved to be a success. In America NBC (The National Broadcasting Company) has created a brand new network loyalty program in which social media plays a starring role. ‘Fan It’ is a social media platform that rewards users who promote and discuss NBC shows. (on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc.) The endeavour is a network-wide initiative designed to leverage the presence of show fans on social networks and incentivise them with points for engaging with content eg. watching and ‘liking’ shows, chatting and recruiting friends. All in a bid to get their viewers interacting with the TV networks and subsequently getting more publicity and becoming more popular.

The Dark Side of Social Media: How the Internet Can Hurt Revolutionaries

24 Mar
Josh Cheesman

@JoshCheesman

Much as revolution has spread from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya, the topic of social media and the revolutions in the Middle East has spread from Georgie to Ian to Caroline, and now to me. As the title suggests, I’m going to look at the third view on how social media has affected the revolutions – in other words, the dark side of the phenomenon.

Emperor Palpatine

"Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen it. Well, except Libya. I expected that to be over a week ago."

 So, what do I mean by the “dark side”?

In her post Social Networks: Demographics and Democracy, Georgie talked about how the role sites like Twitter and Facebook have played in the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, giving the angry youth a place to voice their concerns, and to organise themselves more meaningfully.

The day after, Ian countered that the role of social media had been overplayed by the Western press, and that few people in the rebelling countries even had Facebook accounts (Are we giving Social Media too much credit for the Middle East uprising?).

I’m not going to dispute either of those arguments, but there is another angle to consider here. Namely, that when you’re planning insurgency, the last thing you want is all your personal information readily available to anyone interested in looking.

“The World’s Greatest Spying Machine

Just a few days ago, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave a talk at Cambridge University in which he said that the internet was a great help to totalitarian regimes, allowing them to keep track of dissidents with ease.

“While the Internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing… it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen.”

Julian Assange

"The internet can be used to uncover all sorts of private information. I should know, it's how I made a name for myself."

Assange referenced a failed attempt at a revolution in Cairo a few years ago that was organised on Facebook.

Unfortunately, it was precisely because it was organised on Facebook that Hosni Mubarak’s forces were easily able to round up the protesters after the fact.

It’s kind of like posting some pictures of yourself drunk on Facebook and then realising that you have your boss added as a friend. Except instead of a warning, the consequence is being beaten, imprisoned and tortured.

“It is not a technology that favours freedom of speech. It is not a technology that favours human rights. Rather it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen.” – Julian Assange

Beyond Egypt

The Cairo example Assange gave is not an isolated case. While most of the Western media has been trumpeting the achievements of social media in the Middle East, a few reporters have been looking at the negative effects in other authoritarian states.

Evengy Morozov, author of The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World, wrote an article for The Globe and Mail called The dark side of internet for Egyptian and Tunisian protesters (obviously I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought of Star Wars allusions when faced with this topic). The article starts by talking about two Iranians hung for posting video online of the country’s “Twitter Revolution”, largely ignored by a media focused on Tunisia and Egypt at the time.

While Morozov goes on to give a balanced account of how the internet can both help and hinder revolution (it’s interesting to note that she cites Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s access to an internet “kill switch” as a must for all dictators – a sign that they do fear the internet), she nicely outlines the reasons why the internet can be such a danger:

“The secret police can now learn more about those opposing the state by looking up their profiles – and their friends’ profiles – on social-media sites. The state ideologues can now bolster the legitimacy of the regime by creating suave new media propaganda and claim that it represents ‘the voice of the people’. Young people can be distracted away from politics by the new i-opium of the masses that is never in short supply online.”

Morozov has also been quoted in an article by al-Jazeera, The dangers of social media revolt. There, Azerbaijan, Morocco and Tunisia are mentioned as examples of countries where dissidents have been caught as a result of their Facebook or Gmail accounts.

The author, writer and blogger Jillian York, posits that this is not even necessarily a case of the government hacking in, but could be the result of undercover agents creating fake online profiles.

Even if this isn’t true, the possibility alone will make potential insurgents that little bit more hesitant to spout revolutionary rhetoric.

And moving beyond the Middle East, how could we forget our old friend China? Well known for its government’s iron grip on internet access, Chinese authorities last month foiled a planned simultaneous protest simply by putting under house arrest everyone who searched the word “Jasmine” (the failed protests were nicknamed the “Jasmine Revolution”) on Twitter or similar sites.

Again, if you’re afraid to even make a search, what’s the likelihood of you actually saying anything to challenge the state?

Final Thoughts

At a Question-Time-style debate at City University last Friday, Times columnist David Aaronovitch responded to Julian Assange’s claim that the internet was the world’s “greatest spying machine” by saying that it was a tool, completely neutral in and of itself, that could be used for both good and evil.

This is the point I think we should take away from all this. Yes, social media may have had a positive effect in the Middle East, but it can prop up totalitarian regimes as easily as it can bring them down. Maybe we shouldn’t be lauding Twitter as the herald of the revolution just yet.

Libel and Twitter…

9 Mar

by Georgina Leggate

 @GeorginaLeggate

Ranting on social networks can be an expensive affair, as Courtney Love found out after she was accused of libelling fashion designer ‘Dawn Simorangkir’, on Twitter. Love used the social networking site to declare Simorangkir a thief, and her tweets launched vicious attacks on the designer saying she was an outright criminal. Having realised she was going to fight a losing battle, Love decided to settle Simorangkir’s libel suit for £265,000 rather than face the judge and jury herself, in court. This case addresses the question many of us need answering…

What amounts to defamation on social sites? And are alleged defamatory remarks, disseminated on social sites, more or less influential than that of similar remarks reported in other areas of the media?

We’ve all been aware of the changes to Facebook’s security policy over the past year. There have been an increasing number of cases reported of unconventional and concerning patterns of behaviour that some users have adopted whilst using the social networking site. This has inevitably sparked debates which then led to Facebooks’ executives to taking the necessary action.

As a Facebook addict and someone who uses it hourly rather than daily, I am aware of the huge number of different ways in which one can take precautionary actions when using Facebook and there is special link to click on, or tab to tap in to, which gives one clear instructional advice on what to do and what not to do when using the site. It also provides alternate information should you want to seek help or advice from somewhere other than the Facebook site.

How then, has the same treatment not been given to the likes of Twitter. As far as I can see, there are no warning signs on the site. There are no notices to let users know that one of their ‘tweets’ could be held against them and depending on the content and context of your tweet, one could in fact be taken to court. It’s a miracle we don’t see more Twitter Libel claims. Those of you, who’s tweets are like mine, few and far between, are less likely to appear before the court, but too often now I wonder how so many people are getting away with such slanderous and defamatory tweets.

Of course like in the Love case, it is the celebrity’s who will be scrutinised more often, they are naturally going to have more followers than the masses. In my research for this blog, I have struggled to find any more than a handful of cases of libel lawsuits with regards to Twitter. We all know that our online lives, however private we want to keep them are public, so why isn’t more being done to protect the users of these sites.

Twitter may seem to many a bit of fun, and arguably, most of the time, it is, but underneath it all  lurks a very important bit of litigation. Social media libel may not be at the forefront of the average tweeters mind, but it is certainly something to consider before you tweet your tweets. In our clicking culture, we rarely take time to think about what we tweet, how we update our status and the consequences of our actions. This blog,

http://thisissammy.blogspot.com/2010/09/social-networking-liable-for-libel.html

… should be read by anyone who wants to use social networks safely, and learn about the intricacies of libel law and how it affects social networks. I have learnt a lot from it and my parting message is…. just because you are angry about something, you are passionate about a policy or you are sick of some celebrity, social networks are there to expose you. Whatever remark you make or tweet you tweet ,be aware that legally you are and will always be responsible for your own actions and more importantly your own words.

Love Case: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/courtney-love-settles-twitter-defamation-case/?partner=rss&emc=rss

social networks: demographics and democracy

27 Feb

by Georgina Leggate

 @GeorginaLeggate

Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya…social media has been the driving force behind most of, if not all of, the 2011 protests that have taken place in the Middle East. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook not only played a huge role in the pro-democracy surge but they have provided a platform of communication, which is accessible to all areas of society. These networks have acted as a starting point for all of the protests and have given eclectic groups of repressed citizens, a taste of freedom.

The rich, the poor, the educated, the non-educated, thousands of individuals have been part of what we now call ‘the revolution’. Social media enabled both the protesters and their followers the world over, to support mass movements against autocratic governments.

Social networking also has the amazing ability to crush and flatten hierarchy. Let’s take the Egyptians for example. It is easy to think that the poor or the unemployed triggered the demonstrations, when in-fact there was a growing culture of frustration amongst all socio-economic classes across Egypt. Due to Mubarak’s repressive regime, class distinctions have become more and more blurred. Low pay, low moral combined with high levels of intellect and motivation created a spark that was going to fire up in to something much more.

The reality was that the individuals behind the progressive movement were young, educated and often, privileged men who had access to the Internet and had the ability to use it. The ever-increasing world of social networks that protesters used, gave them a voice.

The use of these social networks enabled technologically savvy protestors to make extraordinary use of the Internet and mobilise the masses. Despite an authoritarian government, social media gave the Egyptians back the power to the people as they usurped the incumbent Egyptian leadership.

Social media was used as a platform to reach citizens in their own country, neighbouring states and crucial, global, expat communities as well.

Unbeknown to the Egyptians, they were to start something quite spectacular as they gained national and international support. This ‘something’ was the ‘revolution’ which arguably stemmed from a large dollop of dictatorship, a sprinkle of civil unrest, a pinch of the people served with a large spoonful of social networks .

You and Social Media: How Young Journalists Use Social Media (now with videos!)

25 Feb

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

Before Christmas, I made some very quick videos of some of our classmates on the TV journalism master’s course at City Uni. I asked them to talk about how they, as young up-and-coming journalists, use social media. Here are the results:

Linguistic Chinese whispers – the dangers of cross-national news sharing on social media

4 Feb

Ben Miller

@ben_at_city

“If you’ve ever played ‘Chinese whispers’, what comes out the end is usually gibberish, and more or less when we speak to each other we’re playing this massive game of Chinese whispers”.

This is evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel’s summary of informative change – a phenomenon that affects conversational syntax and lexicology between speakers of different mother tongues.

The process of lexical morphology – en vrac the sharing of information – is being constantly sped up by the modern-day ease in which people from all corners of the Earth interact with each other. The main vessels that have facilitated this over the last decade all come under one collective name – social media.

In terms of journalism, then, this can prove extremely hazardous. 85% of read and reported news in the UK comes from abroad, and popular knowledge of news and current affairs is often spread by word of mouth (well, more appropriately ‘word of keyboard’ in this case!) between ordinary members of the public. And given that over 70% of Britons under the age of 25 have at least one account on a social media site, there is an enormous amount of news-related cyber gossip going on – a transfer of information that has increased 30-fold since the year 2000.

Lots of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo users have, in these days of easy travel, media globalisation and multiculturalism accumulated swathes of friends and contacts abroad. The inhabitants of all the politically free countries of the world are permitted to access each others news sources and media agency websites. This leads people to interpret news stories in other languages, which naturally has a tendecy to lead to fundamental errors in perception.

The problem with English being such a globally important language is that most of the world tries to read, listen and watch Anglophone publications and broadcasts. If a certain key fact or sentence is misunderstood, then the wrong information can spread indefinitely as the topic is discussed with others.

One ideal example is found in a Facebook message sent to me by a friend in France. On hearing the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement from a BBC emission, my friend’s somewhat limited English led her to believe that the couple had in fact got married, apparently in secret without anyone finding out! It is easy to imagine the confusion that might arise amongst her other Facebook contacts if she had then ‘published’ her error without being corrected.

The global rise of Twitter (which is yet to claim the social network crown from Facebook but has done a seriously good job of clawing its way up from the depths of cyber obscurity over the last 18 months), is a playing field that only accentuates the dangers of linguistic misinterpretation. The extreme informality of publishing your thoughts and a clear emphasis on news (as opposed to Facebook’s greater range of features) means that Twitter is a danger-zone potentially rife with inaccuracy. People read alien languages, they misunderstand, they perceive incorrectly, and they tweet their response. This is a danger not only for unrelated tongues, but also for the mutually intelligible. Speakers of Spanish notoriously misinterpret Portuguese, lulled into a sense of security by the two languages’ similarity and unaware of the prominence of ‘false friends’ – words or phrases that appear very similar but actually have a completely different meaning.

In short, linguistic Chinese whispers are impossible to moniter or control in the online environment. The only thing that assures that popular error doesn’t become widespread journalistic disaster is the enormous number of news sources and the benefits of modern globalisation – any newsworthy piece of information that happens anywhere on the Planet can be instantly exported (and translated) for any audience.