I watched the Flickr acquisition announcement with interest this weekend. While I’m thrilled for all the Flickr team it got me thinking about the issue of fair disclosure and SEC regs – two things that are the bain of every communicators existence (at least those in public companies).
It appears that the announcement went something like this (thanks to Noel for his thoughts here…):
- endless gossip and rumor
- 3/20 – Yahoo confirms to CNET
- 3/20 – Flickr blog confirms purchase
- 3/21 – founder Jerry Yang confirms at PC Forum, $4k to attend
- 3/21, 8:33pm ET – WSJ Online reports on acquisition
- 3/21, 12:27am – Reuters report
In chatting to a few lawyers today, all agreed that neither CNet or Flickr meet the standards of fair disclosure or broad distribution as characterized by the SEC. PC Forum definitely doesn’t. All also pointed out that perhaps Yahoo doesn’t regard this as a material announcement (or they don’t really have a deal yet – do you?) and therefore weren’t bothered about fair disclosure.
It would appear that Yahoo is pushing the boundaries of fair disclosure and transperancy with still no info on their web site for investors wanting to follow their "daring exploits". Which is a little bizzare given their announcement of Yahoo360 (which would seem of equal importance to shareholders).
The sooner blogs are regarded to represent fair disclosure the better. Perhaps then we might have seen more substantial comment from Yahoo – as a shareholder I really do want to hear from them on the acquisition. I can’t think of a format that better than blogs that combine democracy, informality and immediacy.
But to really deliver transparency and communicate effectively with constituents, companies need to look beyond blogs and technology events. Especially if they regard their brand to be substantial – as I am sure Yahoo does. This is where good old fashioned tools like press releases, web sites and wire services come into play. Not doing so leaves a large group in the dark.
Until Blogs are recognized as a vehicle for fair disclosure, I’m still wondering how Yahoo managed to skirt SEC regulations?