The biggest news in the past weeks has been coming from social media. I read about the Boston Marathon bomb attack on Twitter. In near real time. With photos and videos. It was at least another 15 minutes until the major news outlets started reporting on TV and online. More and more, Twitter is giving us major news events before the rest. Yes, Twitter has become the new news wire.
And getting news from Twitter is also influencing our markets and the way we invest. Companies like StockTwits built an entire trader network based on twitter feeds. NYSE added social sentiment to its super feed market data service drawn from Twitter in February. Mid-April Bloomberg announced that they were adding Twitter posts about companies to their terminals. And I know of many small trading firms that give their traders their own Twitter screen next to all the others they need for their daily business.
Is there a pattern here? There sure is. Trading floors and their chatter have more or less vanished. Twitter is filling the void by letting like-minded people find each other on a digital level.
As blogger Barry Ritholtz put so well in an article in the Washington Post last week, “With Twitter, you can build your own virtual trading floor and research department”. While Twitter can offer a lot of misinformation, it also allows you to get different view points from sources you would not get in other news outlets. It lets you spot trends and ideas. It just is so much faster than any other traditional news media.
But as we saw last Tuesday, fast can also cause havoc. I was on the subway when I saw @AP report on Twitter that there had been explosions at the White House, Barack Obama was injured. While I did not really believe it (or hoping it was false), I was waiting, updating my screen seeing if other new outlets were about to report the same news. It turns out @AP had been hacked but in those minutes, this tweet alone caused a mini-crash on the Dow. The traditional chain of events “news comes out, markets react” had been subverted. So has the credibility of Twitter as a news source taken a hit since then? Sure. But nonetheless Twitter remains the new number one place for news.