2011-10-24 Earnings Roundup: Mobile key for Google; Apple misses

Intelligence Report - 10/24/2011
By Mark Glaser & Desiree Everts




Earnings Roundup: Mobile key for Google; Apple misses

Growing concerns about a stalled economy apparently haven't hit mobile advertising. A recent study from eMarketer showed that advertisers are expected to spend $1.23 billion on mobile advertising in the United States this year. That's up 65 percent from the $743 million they spent last year. With those numbers, it's no surprise that Google, a dominant force in mobile advertising, recently reported strong earnings and exceeded expectations. The company saw its third-quarter earnings increase 26 percent and revenue rise 33 percent compared with last year. Google CEO Larry Page said during the earnings call that the company's mobile ad run-rate is $2.5 billion and growing, up from $1 billion a year ago. That's big, noted AllThingsD's Peter Kafka. "But what exactly does that mean?" he asked. "More mobile searches? More mobile display ads? More in-app advertising via AdMob? All of the above? Wall Street will have to guess." Meanwhile, Apple, in a rare earnings miss, took a backseat to Google, its rival in the mobile arena. In its first period with CEO Tim Cook at the helm, the company missed forecasts for its iPhone business. Still, revenue increased 39 percent to $28.3 billion compared with a year earlier, and net income rose to $6.62 billion from $4.31 billion. The company's new iPhone 4S is experiencing phenomenal sales -- but that's unfortunately too late to affect the last quarter.

Content producers, meanwhile, haven't yet latched onto the mobile boom, and earnings at newspaper companies were varied. Gannett saw a slight decline in profits, posting $99.8 million, or 41 cents per share, down nearly 2 percent from $101 million, or 42 cents per share, last year. The New York Times Co. fared better, posting a profit of $15.7 million, as online subscriptions helped bolster its circulation. The Times reported that it has 324,000 paid subscribers to various digital editions, up from 281,000 at the end of the last quarter. Yahoo, which lost out long ago in the mobile space, beat expectations but saw its third-quarter profit fall 26 percent from a year earlier while revenue fell 24 percent, showing it still has a long ways to go after its ouster of CEO Carol Bartz. "The good news on Yahoo's latest earnings report? It beat Wall Street’s expectations," wrote Adweek's Ki Mae Heussner. "The bad news? Those expectations were very, very low." The results may ramp up speculation that the company is primed for a sale.


Occupy Wall Street spreads, and the media listens

Occupy Wall Street, a movement that was largely ignored by the mainstream media, has turned into a potent online conversation with global reach. What started as a proposed protest by Adbusters on Wall Street has expanded from New York's Zuccotti Park to more than 900 cities worldwide, according to its organizers. And now the media -- both mainstream and online -- is paying attention. "The first two weeks of the movement were slow, media coverage was slim and little happened beyond the taking of the concrete park itself," explained Reuters' Ben Berkowitz. "But then a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge prompted hundreds of arrests and the spark was ignited." According to Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, the protests occupied 7 percent of the United States' collective news coverage in the first full week of October, up from 2 percent in the last week of September. "The spike in news media coverage is significant because, among other reasons, it may lend legitimacy to the movement and spur more people to seek out protest information on Facebook and other websites," explained the New York Times' Brian Stelter.

Users of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have helped turn the movement into a global protest, uploading photos, videos and live updates to share with others. They've even created new uses for little-known tools such as Vibe, an app that lets people broadcast anonymous messages to those nearby, and Pastebin, a programmer site that protesters have been using in order to organize and share information. In other words, the digital landscape has turned Occupy Wall Street into a powerful brand. As Ad Age's Simon Dumenco wrote, "From Occupy Together as a general rubric for protests beyond Wall Street, to the slew of city-specific protests (Occupy San Francisco, Occupy DC, Occupy London, etc.), the notion of Occupy clearly resonates." Considering that Occupy Wall Street's organizers say they drew inspiration from the Arab Spring, it's little surprise that many news outlets have drawn parallels between social media's role in the two events. But the Economist's G.L. believes social media is playing an even bigger role in Occupy: "While the so-called 'Facebook revolutions' in the Arab world were nothing of the sort, what's going on in America right now may be the world's first genuine social-media uprising."

Is Amazon's publishing business on fire?

After Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a full-color touchscreen tablet that costs $199, half the price of the cheapest iPad, some quickly claimed that Apple had finally met its match in the tablet wars -- and early figures indicate that Amazon could indeed be a formidable opponent. Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw, told CNET News' Brooke Crothers that Amazon is on track to ship as many as 5 million of the tablets in the fourth quarter. "Checks indicate that they could ship upwards of 5 million units in the December quarter, which is just shy of half of Apple's volume," Kumar said. The Fire, which is optimized for digital media including movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps and games, pushes Amazon even further into the publishing sphere, which is exactly where it wants to be. As Business Insider's Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry explained, it's not just a product, but an entire ecosystem. "Specifically, it's not just an e-book reader but a tablet, a media store, a platform for digital media sales, and even a publishing imprint," he wrote.

Amazon has had its eye on the publishing space for quite some time, and it's finally making some in-roads. The company hired well-known editor Larry Kirschbaum earlier this year and then nabbed a book deal with self-help author Timothy Ferriss. The company also recently announced plans to publish 122 books in both physical and e-book form, essentially cutting publishers out of the mix and going directly to the writers. In addition, Amazon is aggressively wooing publishers' top authors and trying to offer the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide, according to the New York Times' David Streitfeld. Traditional publishers, of course, aren't taking it in stride. "Publishers are terrified and don't know what to do," Melville House's Dennis Loy Johnson told Streitfeld. But GigaOm's Matthew Ingram believes it's all fair game. "In many cases, the biggest barrier between authors and readers is a traditional publisher," he wrote. "Until that changes, Amazon will continue to win."


Twitter, Tumblr growth explodes

Twitter and Tumblr have a lesson to share with the media industry: If you make social sharing as easy as possible, more people will flock to your service. Twitter's recent integration into Apple's iOS 5, which makes it simple to send tweets from your browser, YouTube, photo apps, and so on, pays heed to that motto. Twitter has just started to see the results of its iOS integration -- and those results are big, with daily sign-ups via iOS devices such as the iPhone and the iPad surging three times their normal rate, said company CEO Dick Costolo. "The iOS integration is going to be absolutely huge for us," Costolo said during the Web 2.0 Summit, according to GigaOm's Colleen Taylor. "It’s going to be even better than we thought it would be." Many industry watchers believe that's a fair assessment so far. The micro-blogging service, in fact, had already been growing by leaps and bounds, so the iOS integration is just another key factor in its more recent growth. Earlier this year it announced it had reached 200 million tweets per day, but that number has now risen to nearly 250 million tweets, the company said.

Meanwhile, Tumblr, though on a smaller scale, is itself becoming a force to reckon with in the social media sphere. Over the past year, Tumblr has gone from 2 billion page views a month to more than 13 billion and from 1 billion total posts to more than 10 billion, according to Fortune's Alex Kantorwitz. In late September, Tumblr announced an $85 million dollar round of financing which valued the company at $800 million. What's the company's secret sauce? It's former Newsweek editor Mark Coatney, said Kantorwitz. Under Coatney's watch, 240 publications have joined the platform, turning it "into a legitimate source for news in addition to a place to find pictures of hipster puppies and hungover owls," Kantorwitz wrote.


Boom time for mobile devices, as PCs fade

R.I.P. PC. ComScore has come out with a report that's yet another indicator that more people are using mobile devices to access the web, forgoing traditional computers. Mobile gadgets, including smartphones and tablets, account for 7 percent of worldwide traffic on the web, according to the report. Approximately two-thirds of that number came from mobile phones, while the remaining third came from tablet devices. And what do tablet users do with their devices? Approximately 60 percent use social-networking sites and read news on their devices, and around 25 percent are reading news on a near-daily basis, ComScore found. Indeed, mobile traffic has been growing at a quick pace -- the report also revealed that Wi-Fi traffic through mobile devices grew as much as 3 percent in the last three months alone. As The New York Times' Nick Bilton wrote, "The prediction that Internet traffic originating from mobile devices will eventually exceed that of desktop computers connected to the Internet is on its way to a reality."

Meanwhile, a separate study found that the number of connected devices is expected to increase to a staggering 24 billion in 2021, up from the current 9 billion. The study, from Machina Research and industry group GSMA, predicted that revenue for the industry could grow to $1.2 trillion by 2020 -- a seven-fold increase from revenues in 2011. The growth isn't just limited to smartphones and tablets, however. GSMA believes that connectivity in the future will include everything from appliances to consumer electronics. "We are entering the next phase in the development of the mobile industry, one where we will see mobile connect everything in our lives," Michael O'Hara, chief marketing officer for GSMA, said in a release.

Knight: Lessons for non-profit news sites

It's not just about good journalism -- non-profit news organizations need to develop decent business models, too. That's just one of the key findings from a recent Knight Foundation study called "Getting Local," which took a look at the business models for seven non-profit news sites: MinnPost, the Texas Tribune, the St. Louis Beacon, the New Haven Independent, Bay Citizen, Voice of San Diego, Crosscut, and Chi-Town Daily News (which was shuttered in 2009). The report found that none of the sites have reached sustainability yet, but it offered some suggestions on how to get there. Some of the necessary components for success include developing a business strategy and executing it; using innovative approaches to build community engagement; and technological support to track engagement, said the Knight Foundation's Mayur Patel and Michelle McLellan.

"Successful news organizations -- even the non-profit ones -- have to act like digital businesses, making revenue experimentation, entrepreneurship and community engagement important pieces of the mix," they wrote. The report highlighted how non-profit news organizations are working to diversify their revenue and engage the community. The Bay Citizen has a Bicycle Accident Tracker, and the Voice of San Diego hosted a "Politifest" event and sends out a daily email with article excerpts and links to full content. Such efforts have a business payoff as well, Knight's Michael Maness told Poynter's Rick Edmonds. Some contributors, he said, "are not among the particularly active users but believe in what the site does."

Of Note

How Bit.ly Now Predicts the Future (ReadWriteWeb)
Bit.ly says its new service will predict which brand-new pages online will receive a lot of traffic in the future

Google Kills Buzz, Its Last Lame Social Networking Attempt (Business Insider)
The search giant will pull the plug on Google Buzz in a few weeks, completing its shift to Google+

Guardian to Readers: Here's Our Upcoming Stories List (Mashable)
In an effort to elevate transparency in the newsroom, the UK newspaper is making its schedule of upcoming stories available to the public in a two-week experiment

The Missed Red Flags on Groupon (NY Times)
How did so many Wall Street firms desperate to underwrite the Groupon IPO miss these warning signs when pitching such a sky-high valuation?

Hulu’s Owners Call Off Sale (AllThingsD)
Hulu won't be bought by Amazon, Google or anyone else, say Hulu's owners, ending one chapter of the online video service's story

A Different Approach to Tablets for Conde Nast (Forbes)
Conde Nast has been full-steam-ahead on the tablet front. But the Adobe-based system it uses for producing tablet editions of its magazines is far from perfect

Facebook Updates Mobile Plan In Big Way With iPad App, HTML5 Features (paidContent)
Facebook’s mobile strategy, which seemed dormant just a month ago, is finally coming into place


openquoteThe data-driven Net has arrived. Much of the way digital media has been built since 1994 is about to die off -- starting with the idea of the web 'page' itself.closequote

Chip Bayers, Adweek's deputy editor

Welcome to the Stream (Adweek)


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