16 March 2008

We interrupt this presidential campaign...

First, many thanks to PunditMom and One Plus Two for naming my most recent rant about Facebook a "just post" for February. It's very rewarding when people from different walks of life can get together in some way and salute ideas.

Speaking of diversity and unity, It's no secret that the Democratic Party is having some serious difficulty speaking with one voice these days. So it's not surprising that this fissure has shown up in the blogs, and that online grassroots activists are having serious disagreements. I see Micah Sifry is on top of it. The online and offline discussions are integrating more each day, and that online discussions have a significant impact on mainstream debates. That's what that other blog examines, but it's an important point to make here as well.

Today, I'm much more interested in what the blogosphere has to say about Bear Stearns. I don't think I'd necessarily call this a "crisis," but it's sure sumthin', ain't it?

That blue line with the huge spike at the end of it represents online discussions about Bear Stearns. The green line is the talk about the Federal Reserve. The yellow/orange line you don't see is the talk about JP Morgan. It's very clear that the big story over the weekend and leading into this morning is the surprise negotiated sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan for less than ten percent of its listed price at the stock market's close on Friday - and the unprecedented action from the Federal Reserve to essentially guarantee the sale and to cut interest rates on a Sunday night.

Of course, the online discussion is mirroring the reporting in the mainstream and business trade media right now, and I think it's only going to pick up more.

I'd bet the blogosphere is pretty low on Bear Stearns' list of priorities right now. But if they ignore it they're ignoring a very important communications channel. Bear Stearns doesn't own its brand, its reputation, or its issues right now. That's not a slam on them - it's just their turn to be the focus of the news cycle. But if they're willing to look they'll find a wealth of opinion leaders and discussion drivers who are already talking about what's happening. If they had the foresight to build relationships with them earlier, they'd have a number of opportunities to get their messages quickly and efficiently into a place that we already know has some influence on the "big league" financial media.

I expect the market bloggers to do most of the writing today to talk about fallout, then the political bloggers will probably weigh in more - assigning blame, which is what they do best - and then the economists will try to explain to everyone what this all means. At each step in this story cycle, Bear Stearns and JP Morgan should be weighing in online. And frankly, so should the Federal Reserve's communications team.

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