Last night, real-time financial-news network StockTwits celebrated its second year at a rooftop bar in midtown Manhattan. To promote the event, the company released a clip from Wall Street—the famous scene where Gordon Gekko espouses to shareholders about the virtues of greed—with StockTwits CEO Howard Lindzon blue-screened over Michael Douglas, giving a dubbed speech which played off the original lines. The message was clear: StockTwits aims to be the modern platform that traders rely on—an iPhone app to replace Gekko's bulky 1980s-era cell.
"The point is, you Fast Money [and] Yahoo's, StockTwits, for lack of a better word, is good," boasted Lindzon.
Among the cocktail chatter and victory-cigar smoke, the celebration made it seem as if StockTwits had already overcome the company's enormous competitors CNBC and Yahoo. But as Lindzon explains, StockTwits has a long way to go.
"Audiences now are fragmented," Lindzon says. Referring to Mad Money's Jim Cramer, Lindzon argues that the way to grow an audience online—to spread a network's influence—is to stay devoted to your product day after day. Cramer, he says, built up TheStreet.com "by showing up and kicking ass for more than twelve years."
"That has added up," he explains. "We would kill for an audience that size, but it's going to become harder and harder."
Unlike networks of the past which relied mainly on experts and journalists, StockTwits has positioned itself more as an aggregator of financial news. Live streams are pulled from Facebook and Twitter; recently acquired service Abnormal Returns culls the best financial news stories from the Internet; weekly Webinars and video market recaps are offered; and StockTwits.tv features original programming around the clock. In other words, StockTwits uses social media to create a real-time financial-news network for the digital age. Lindzon refers to his audience as an "army," albeit one smaller than audiences of yore, but one "impassioned around the brand."
"I call it social leverage," he says. "Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, they're aggregators. We're a two year-old business. It's going to be hard to catch up from an SEO standpoint to Google or Yahoo. But they also [represent] an old way of aggregating. They have all the eyeballs, but it's not in their interest to really change their sites for new media like Twitter."
Due to its unique position, StockTwits is now investing heavily to expand the network, which already attracts some 300,000 unique visitors a month.
"We're built to plug in whatever is hot—our DNA is a lot different," says Lindzon. "Before Twitter, everybody was working toward competing with Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, TheStreet.com, and Motley Fool. But now it's completely different. We have a shot at creating a market."