April 1, 2014

The Michael Lewis Effect

If you want to see one of the best rollouts of a fairly complex business book, witness Michael Lewis’ extensive PR campaign for Flash Boys. He started with a “60 Minutes” exclusive where he said the “U.S. stock market is rigged”—not exactly earth shattering, but it got a debate going on Twitter among Wall St. columnists and other pundits. (Here’s a good one) The splashy “60 Minutes” debut then basically steamrolled into an all-day debate and coverage of high frequency trading on all of the business networks and the main networks (including CBS, of course).

The New York Times had no less than four pieces from the book including an excerpt in the New York Times Magazine, a DealBook column by Andrew Ross Sorkin, an official review of the book and a piece about all the hoopla. The Wall Street Journal had its own review and so did other major outlets. A search in Factiva yielded 385 mentions for the book in the last 24 hours, and that doesn’t include blogs.

Then, a BNP Paribas executive wrote to all of his clients and told them Lewis was invested in IEX, the platform to combat high frequency traders that he wrote about. That prompted Lewis to issue a strong rebuttal on his Facebook page calling out the BNP executive by name. Twitter went nuts in the afternoon just as the whole Lewis frenzy was beginning to die down. BuzzFeed obtained a copy of the email (the post got 58,000 views in less than 24 hours), which fueled the fire even more.

To top it all off, in a highly unusual move, the FBI reached out to media outlets to let them know they had been running an investigation of high frequency trading for over a year.


The book is of course No. 1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list right now.

By Zach Kouwe

Zach Kouwe is a Vice President at Dukas Public Relations.