Are you seriously thinking of buying Facebook shares?

By Felix Salmon
May 15, 2012

I’m well aware that I live in something of a bubble, here in Manhattan: the people I hang out with tend to be college-educated white liberals, and I’m racking my brain trying to think of someone I spend any real time with who might object to gay marriage. So clearly I don’t live in anything approaching a representative sample of Americans. But still, I’m confused by the endless parade of stories about people who want to buy Facebook shares, and whether it’s a good idea to buy Facebook shares, and how to buy Facebook shares, and so on and so forth. A classic example, running at 2,300 words, is in the WSJ today:

Late Monday, the social network raised the price range for its IPO to $34 to $38 a share…

Those numbers have created high hopes for both individual and professional investors. The excitement has drawn in fledgling stock buyers such as 11-year-old Jade Supple of Rockville Centre, N.Y., whose father plans to bet money saved to put his daughter through college on Facebook shares, although he has doubts about the price.

My gut feeling, here, is that what we’re seeing is nine parts lazy editors commissioning these pieces on autopilot, to one part a real-world phenomenon of huge retail demand for Facebook stock. The press loves IPOs, because they’re one of the few occasions when the stock market delivers a significant news event which can be prepared for in advance. But the public? The whole investing-in-IPOs thing just feels so late-90s to me, and the performance of stocks like Groupon and Pandora is hardly likely to spark another feeding frenzy.

So when Henry Blodget describes the Facebook IPO as muppet bait, I do wonder who the muppets really are. Is it a genuine horde of individual investors, all clamoring to get in on the hot new stock offering of the decade? Or is it the muppets on CNBC, following Mark Zuckerberg’s every move like he’s the Pied Piper of Hamelin, only with a hoodie instead of a magic pipe?

Still, I might be wrong on this. So here’s a quick, unscientific poll. Or, just have at it in the comments.

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