WHEN Internet giant Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) reported its second-quarter 2010 earnings last week it did so without using a paid PR wire service – a controversial move that some predicted would create challenges for the disclosure ecosystem.
But it seems the company’s unusual new process — posting its earnings release on its IR website followed less than two minutes later by a Form 8-K — was something of a nonevent from the perspective of the media and investors.
While there were some important gaps in Google’s process (see the members’ site for a full critique), I have been unable find a single negative comment about it from an investor or journalist.
That’s quite surprising given that it’s the first time Google has not used a PR wire to announce its results, and the fact that the news itself was far from positive.
The worst I know of are some negative comments from investors about the company wasting time on its conference call (more about that later), and some snide comments from Business Wire, the PR wire service whose revenues are threatened by the trend to web disclosure.
Trading brisk, Bloomberg picks up release anyway
Looking at the news and trade flow following Google’s earnings announcement, however, it appears that the company dropping PR wire distribution had no negative impact on the media’s ability to cover the results or on investors’ ability to analyze and trade on them. News coverage and trading started within minutes for the results being posted.
Bloomberg, Flyonthewall.com and MarketWatch.com were among the first to report the results, which were also disseminated to the major financial newswires and sites like Yahoo! Finance via the EDGAR public dissemination service.
And perhaps most interesting, Bloomberg actually picked up the earnings release and conference call presentation from Google’s website and republished them for its audience.
Meanwhile, investors showed no lack of ability to analyze and trade on the news immediately after it went public. In after-hours trading, more than 900,000 shares changed hands, representing about one-fifth of the entire day’s volume. Talk about an efficient market!
And, yes, this is after dire warnings from the PR wires and their cronies that the world was going to end if Google didn’t distribute the full text of its earnings release via a PR wire.
Gloop, gloop, gloop. “Not funny”
So what did irk investors? Well, Google missing estimates didn’t go down well, with the stock dropping almost 7% by the close the following day. But the only thing about Google’s disclosure that I could find that really seemed to bug a few observers were some light-hearted remarks about Pac-Man on the earnings call.
At the end of his remarks, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s SVP Product Management commented: “I hope you played with our special Pac-Man doodle. We put it on May 22nd to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th birthday and we estimate people spent 4.8 million hours playing it. If you missed it, go to google.com/pacman. Gloop, gloop, gloop.”
This attempt at humor amid an “earnings miss” seemed to bomb with people like Larry Dignan, Editor in Chief of ZDNet, Eric Jackson, Managing Member at Ironfire Capital LLC and a senior contributor to TheStreet.com, and Alpha Sprouts who describes himself as a “Long/Short Equity Hedge Fund Manager focusing mostly on Tech and Healthcare.”
All had negative reactions to Google’s Pac-Man banter, with Dignan saying it really should be “wocka-wocka-wocka” rather than gloop, gloop, goop. Jackson branded it “not funny” and Alpha Sprouts professed that it “pisses me off.”
What does this Pac-Man stuff have to do with Google dropping the PR wire for its earnings release? Well, I mention it only to illustrate that in today’s social media world, investors and the media aren’t shy about sharing what’s on their minds.
And clearly, Google dropping PR wires for earnings releases is not something they have a big issue with. If it was, we’d all know about it. Immediately.