Jeter Breaks Ankle, Twitter Delivers Eyeballs

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Twitter goes public, I want shares. In the highly likely event I can't get any, I'll probably buy the stock anyway. I might even break my own rule, buying an IPO out of the gate on its first day of trading.

Back in the day -- we're talking a decade ago -- I was fanatical about football and baseball.

The obsessions faded fast when I stopped doing sports radio. It's to the point where I have not watched more than an hour of the last 10 year's worth of Super Bowls combined.

Over the last few weeks, however, Twitter has compelled me to stop what I was doing to turn on major sports.

A couple of weeks ago it was the replacement referees' blown call in the Green Bay Packers game. Twitter exploded. I turned on ESPN's "Sportscenter," helping make it the highest rated edition of the program ever.

On vacation over the weekend, while reading a book, I grabbed my phone to check Twitter. It had blown up. Everybody was Tweeting about Raul Ibanez's home run to tie the Yankees-Tigers game at four in the bottom of the ninth.

I stopped reading. Turned on the game. I fell asleep before it ended. In the middle of the night, I checked Twitter again. Something had happened to Derek Jeter. The TV was on. I flipped over to ESPN.

Without Twitter, I never would have paid attention to, let alone turned on the television to get sports news or watch a game.

You can argue that Twitter does not drive these responses. That Twitter just happens to be the modern-day platform for word-of-mouth advertising.

Simple enough, but likely too simple.

The sister of Facebook ( FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Randi, who recently left the company to start Zuckerberg Media said it best in a CNBC interview.

"There's really something special going on . . . between integration of traditional television and online."

Straightforward yes, but quite insightful.

I'm as guilty as the next person. Often, I fall into the trap of online will kill this or that medium, be it radio, television or print. In some respects, it will. Disruption, however, does not have to lead to extinction. But it should incite change. Television, in particular, can not only coexist with online; the two can partner with one another.

That's what Randi Zuckerberg told CNBC, pointing out that, despite social media's size, "the eyeballs" are still on television sets. In fact, our eyeballs increasingly multi-task as we move from mobile devices and computers to TVs. Often, there's no moving taking place -- somehow, we pay attention to multiple screens concurrently.

Word of mouth via modern channels doesn't sufficiently explain the symbiotic relationship between new/social media and the old guard.

Old-style word of mouth still exists, but it's not the primary driver of ratings it used to be.

Every year, I hear people hooting and hollering throughout my neighborhood during the Super Bowl. I hardly react. Before the game, dozens of people I bump into ask where I'm watching it. I tell them I have no plans and do not intend to make any.

The buzz on the street just doesn't get me all that excited, even when a whole city block bursts into a frenzy because something big just happened. The furor compels me to do nothing.

I can't quite explain why it's different when it comes from Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. For whatever reason, when Twitter erupts with people I've never met before saying something they just saw was "unbelievable," I must be part of it.

Resistance

I'm not sure we -- as a society -- realize just how powerful this dynamic is.

For every Dick Costolo or Zuckerberg sibling in the world that gets it, you have a television (or radio) executive or three fighting against it.

It goes like this.

Online media, television and radio need to enter a renewed era of partnership. It's on the latter two, however, to follow the former's lead. New and social media will continue to take off; the question simply becomes, Will the old guard go along for the ride or resist the trend, thereby setting itself up for almost-certain demise?

As a long-term investor, I cannot go wrong with Twitter in my portfolio once it goes public. At the same time, the oldest of the old guard media stocks look equally as attractive. I've won big with several in 2012 -- Time Warner ( TWX), Madison Square Garden ( MSG), Rogers Communications ( RCI) and BCE ( BCE).

While I still like all four stocks, I'm turning more toward names such as News Corp. ( NWSA) and Comcast ( CMCSA).

Like TWX, MSG, RCI and BCE, both companies have what the people want -- long-term contracts to televise major sports ranging from baseball to the Olympics. In addition, they own and operate strong brands that, love 'em or hate 'em, attract eyeballs.

Fox News. CNBC. MSNBC. It's quite a list of very much alive multimedia properties that continue to do well on television and online.

Traditional media has the power to ride the very sustainable waves that are Twitter and Facebook. New and social media appears to have the right attitude. It wants to be a good partner.

This harmony represents the future, not online as the exclusive conduit for news, sports and entertainment. I intend to invest accordingly.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB. On weakness he intends to buy shares of NWSA and CMCSA.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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