When I think about SpinVox and the huge public kerfuffle that broke out last month stemming from allegations made in a BBC investigation over SpinVox’s audio-to-text transcription service, Billy Flynn and razzle-dazzle from the musical Chicago is mostly what springs to my mind.

(You can read the lyrics, too.)

The allegations the BBC and others have made are pretty serious – they’re largely about how much of SpinVox’s transcription work is done by computers, how much by people in call centres abroad, and whether the company is in breach of any UK and EU data protection laws – to which SpinVox responded shortly after the BBC’s initial report with a formal statement robustly addressing and mostly dismissing the charges, followed up with an informal commentary in a blog post.

Those responses haven’t really satisfied anyone, though (looking to me rather like the razzle-dazzle epitomized by Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in the song).

Or, to borrow an advertising metaphor, maybe the question is: where’s the beef, SpinVox?

I’ve commented about this SpinVox kerfuffle from the broad PR and specific reputation-damage perspectives in various episodes of the FIR podcast (471, 470 and 469) plus a couple of audio commentaries at Audioboo.

My views have represented only one voice among many as the blogosphere has been alight with commentary and opinion about SpinVox for much of this time, with increasingly-loud calls for the company to conclusively address the allegations.

SpinVox chose to do that via a carefully-controlled event to which journalists and some bloggers were invited – although at least one blogger refused to attend because of the control – and at which the company would demonstrate its technology. The event took place on August 4 at their Marlow headquarters.

seclogo Yesterday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved new guidance for publicly-listed companies in using traditional websites and social media channels like blogs to meet the SEC’s public disclosure requirements under Regulation FD.

Regulation FD (‘fair disclosure’) sets out a clear rule relating to the selective disclosure of information, and clarifies some issues under the US law of insider trading.

The SEC’s new guidance on what tools companies can use concerning Reg FD is a huge step forward in opening up the closed world of regulated financial communication, providing companies, investors and anyone with an interest in a US-listed company with better means to more easily find, share and interactively make use of information that’s offered in electronic form.

I first heard about the SEC’s news in a dent from Dominic Jones yesterday. (Btw, you’ve heard of tweets, right? Better get used to hearing about dents now as well.)

It seems to me that the SEC’s announcement vindicates efforts over the years by influential voices such as Sun Microsystems’ CEO Jonathan Schwartz who have called on the SEC to open up the regulatory framework governing financial communication.

So what does the SEC’s liberalization move mean for communication and investor relations?

While I’ve not studied the SEC’s preliminary statement yet in real depth, two immediate thoughts come to my mind:

  1. This could be the moment, the tipping point, when the social media news release really comes into its own, given its purpose of presenting news and information in a format that is designed for online interactivity.
  2. It could well give a kick in the pants to how corporate websites are managed and controlled, opening up the development of those sites into genuinely interactive and useful tools. A bit like how blogs work in many ways.

Others with unquestionably deeper knowledge than me about financial communication have posted some excellent first thoughts.