I am a big fan of Howard and Soren, what they have done with StockTwits is both visionary and massively disruptive to the well defended financial news industry. When Howard asked me if I wanted to alpha test their new Desktop application I jumped at the opportunity and when I opened the app for the first time I had one of those rare moments when you are instantly overcome with the realization that what you are looking at can be a really big deal.
Before getting into Desktop, let me first clarify something about StockTwits that is an unfortunate consequence of the name, which is the perception that the service is an extension of Twitter. It’s not, StockTwits is a community powered investor information service that aggregates content from a wide range of sources and presents text, charts, and video content. It’s true that Twitter is a key component and the proliferation of tweets including the “$” + “ticker” format is critical because it’s that content that keys to the additional content services, like SkyGrid, and ensures contextualization of all the content.
Rather than thinking of StockTwits as a virtual room in Twitter, it’s more appropriate to say it is a feature superset of Twitter. The Desktop application realizes this vision by unleashing the user experience, in effect providing something much more like a Bloomberg terminal than a simple activity stream, and not charging you $1,500 a month in the process.
There are a couple of things you notice right away with StockTwits desktop, the first being that they have enabled a Twitter independent identity and authentication system. This is important because it gives them the ability to enable and enforce a subscription service for not only the core service but also add on content offerings. The latter is critical because many of the better financial news services are pay-to-play and because their price points are steep they artificially constrain their market to hard core traders. StockTwits could enable a micro-payment scheme that would be highly attractive to content providers without requiring them to implement complex payment transaction systems on their own.
Next up you will notice that not everything you message in Desktop shows up in the public twitter timeline, which is because they have enabled an optional cc scheme which makes StockTwits effectively a virtual network within Twitter. I thought this was really interesting because it is taking advantage of Twitter infrastructure in a way that Twitter itself hasn’t and because Twitter has not pre-occupied itself with revenue StockTwits is getting it for free.
Imagine this scenario to see what I mean. Let’s say you went out and bought a container full of cheap Android handsets, wrote your own VoIP application that took advantage of a free API that AT&T was offering, and then went out and started selling cell phones with a low flat monthly fee for all you can eat calling… and AT&T wasn’t getting a dime. That is essentially what StockTwits is doing to Twitter with their Desktop application.
The inclusion of StockTwits TV is important because it again mimics something that Bloomberg has been very effective with. It is no secret that financial news is increasingly tied to broadcast and cable distribution (CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, etc.) which separates this news category from all others, except sports, in that it has several dedicated channels providing real time content. StockTwits TV also provides a platform for advertising monetization with pre/post-roll that is tied to advertisers or complimentary content providers. I found it compelling, even as background noise while I was doing other things.
There are groups, public now but Soren has stated that private groups are on the way, people directory, and watchlist functions but the real meat and potatoes is the detailed timeline and charting features for individual tickers. As more content providers become available this feature set will no doubt become richer which will be certain to give Bloomberg and others a serious case of heartburn.