Back in December 2010, Alon Kutai penned a very interesting article on Reed Hastings of Netflix ($NFLX) on the ProActive Newsroom in reference to a short position on NFLX by Whitney Tilson, who is a very well-known and highly regarded professional value investor. "Stop the Presses - Netflix CEO Reed Hastings post on Seeking Alpha" was about Whitney, the Founder and Managing Partner of T2 Partners LLC and his well-articulated and cogent bearish thesis in his article, entitled, “Why We’re Short Netflix.” Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, responded to Tilson’s December 16th article on Seeking Alpha. As one would expect, each side of “point/counter-point” exchange drew its share of supporters.
Now Ezra Marbach is singing the praises of Hastings on his Blog in an article titled, "Will Netflix CEO Hastings usher in a new era for online finance, investor relations & social media?":
Over the years, Netflix has experienced intense scrutiny especially as its stock price has appreciated. In response, CEO Hastings has been the model of transparency and accessibility. He regularly updates a PowerPoint presentation detailing Netflix’s strategy and future challenges and pens a lengthy shareholder letter after each and every earnings announcement. Hastings also broke with tradition and opened his quarterly earnings calls to all investor questions regardless of their source. Questions are submitted via email and earnings calls are Q&A-only in order to provide for more interaction with the sell-side, buy-side and retail investor communities.
In an even more dramatic move, Hastings went on the offensive recently in response to a critical presentation by a prominent value investor short Netflix. Instead of following the Patrick Byrne playbook of disparaging short sellers, Hastings responded respectfully and diplomatically by submitting a persuasive blog post to an investor site. He also conducted a lengthy and incredibly informative interview with former Merrill analyst Henry Blodget at Business Insider. Hastings was rewarded for his efforts as reflected in his stock’s subsequent move higher.
Like any CEO, Hastings values his time. He chose to target large online networks of engaged investors to deliver his message. And it worked. So why aren’t other CEOs following a similar playbook, especially small-cap CEOs who are typically starved for attention? Clearly Hastings’ methods aren’t rocket science.
The simple answer? Except for StockTwits and Motley Fool, the current group of financial content websites (i.e. TheStreet, SeekingAlpha, Minyanville, Benzinga, etc.) has done little to pursue public companies and their pent-up desire for a social media presence to complement their IR websites. Instead, massive amounts of valuable investor content sits largely undisturbed on predominantly little trafficked IR websites. Furthermore, CEOs like Netflix’s Hastings who have loads of strategic and actionable investor information to communicate (within the parameters of RegFD) have yet to be unleashed online.
I try not to plug ProActive here on this blog, but our PRISM product is doing exactly what Reed Hastings of Netflix is doing.