Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Monitoring Specialists Keep Firms Informed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Monitoring Specialists Keep Firms Informed

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- With thousands of Internet message boards out there, it's difficult for executives to keep abreast of what's being said about their companies. That's why some companies hire specialists to be their ears for Internet gossip.

These Web monitoring firms sift through the thousands of Web sites every day to find what people are writing -- good and bad -- about their clients.

"The Internet has turned into an overwhelming flow of critical information," said Victor Holtorf, chief operating officer of NetCurrents, an Internet monitoring firm in Burlingame. "We protect our clients from erroneous postings from stock manipulators and from simple human error."

NetCurrents relies on a combination of technology and humans to find those postings. Its computers categorize messages by topic, such as earnings, and designates them positive, negative or neutral.

Messages with phrases that may be particularly problematic for a company like "insiders are selling, time to dump this stock" are forwarded to a NetCurrents employee. If the information is not true, the employee corrects it by posting a link to a credible source like a Securities and Exchange Commission file to set the record straight.

"We don't get into an argument or try to influence what is discussed," Holtorf said. "Anyone is entitled to say `Bill Gates is a jerk' or `I hate him.' But if someone says Larry Ellison sold 20,000 shares of Oracle stock and everyone should get out, that's a time to respond."

At least a half-dozen companies specialize in some form of Internet monitoring. Among them are CyberAlert in Stratford, Conn., and Cyveillance in Alexandria, Va.

Some of the companies simply provide clients with copies of the messages and news articles they are interested in. Others analyze postings for their clients and provide live gauges showing the ratio of positive and negative Internet messages at any given moment.

Nancy Sells, vice president of eWatch, an Internet monitoring service owned by the New York public relations company PR Newswire, said investor and public relations departments are particularly interested in Web monitoring. Many companies, she said, want to keep abreast of what the public is saying about their products to better tailor their marketing campaigns. …

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