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Google reported fourth quarter earnings today and missed Wall Street's estimates by a country mile. Investors were looking for $10.51 per share. They got $9.50. This immediately gave some Google bears justification for cutting their target prices for the Internet search giant — and for making even more drastic pronouncements. For example (this is from MarketWatch):
“Is the post-Google era upon us?” asked analyst Scott Devitt of Morgan Stanley in a note to clients. He cut his price target to $590 from $642 while leaving his rating at equal-weight, or neutral.
Other analysts are keeping their calls for Google in the stratosphere. But the fourth quarter miss might be signaling something more ominous — or optimistic, depending on your perspective — than the end of the Google Age.
The beginning of the Facebook Age.
If Facebook stages, as expected, an IPO later this year, it could become overnight a $100 billion company, by market capitalization, raising $10 billion in the process. There's every possibility that investors are preparing for this earthshaking event. Google's struggles provide an ideal excuse for them to trim their Google positions to prepare to move into Facebook.
Facebook shares will be prices at a premium, given that the company probably isn't planning on selling very much of itself in its IPO, continuing a recent trend of tech companies limiting the initial "float" of shares to command a higher valuation.
So Google is under pressure at almost the same time that Facebook is poised to capture investor attention and shift the tech world decisively toward a more social, less search-driven model. Web and mobile users are spending their time on these sites and with their apps, so this is where the action is. The big question is whether they'll be able to make money off advertising in the same bountiful way that Google has from search.
The messaging industry never had control of the message.
The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea -- the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship -- made it viral, and made it stick.
Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.
That's pretty well put. But of course it doesn't really get to the root of the issue, which is that California's two leviathan businesses — entertainment and tech — are running away from each other way faster than they're running together. And when it comes to the race for future economic viability and the hearts and minds of consumers, only tech is running in the right direction.
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A Yahoo! billboard is visible through trees in San Francisco, California.
Yahoo co-founder and chairman (and former CEO) Jerry Yang has resigned completely from Yahoo. The Wall Street Journal has a succinct explanation why:
Mr. Yang's exit is the latest chapter for Yahoo and underlines the widening gap between old Internet companies and newer ones. Yahoo was part of an earlier crop of Web companies from the 1990s that helped spark the dot-com boom and came of age as users world-wide began going online.
But after riding that wave, new companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.—often with younger leaders like 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook—came to prominence with Web technologies such as search and social networking, leaving older firms like Yahoo struggling to catch up.
Those two paragraphs, in their way, explain the precise problem with Yahoo: it isn't a tech company. Rather, it's a media company and always really has been. Yahoo was conceived in the Web 1.0 world of unruly distraction and idealistic alternatives to legacy media, especially television.
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Federal Reserve Bank Board Chairman Ben Bernanke delivers remarks at the Fed Sept. 15, 2011 in Washington, DC.
The New York Times' Steven Davidoff — the Deal Professor — argues that the Federal Reserve is actually the world's most successful hedge fund. But it's not like any other hedge fund. It creates its own money and doesn't care about profits (hedge funds borrow lots of other people's money and are OBSESSED with profits). It also pays its employees squat for making about $77 billion in 2011.
By the usual hedge fund rule of "2 and 20" — a 2 percent management fee plus 20 percent of the profits — the Fed's staff should be dividing up more than $14 billion on profits, exclusive of whatever it might charge to run $3 trillion in assets (2 percent of that would be $60 billion).
I call the Fed a hedge fund because it is operating like one, leveraging its balance sheet to earn huge profits. The main difference between a hedge fund and the Fed is that the Fed effectively creates its own money, so it doesn’t have any borrowing costs, meaning yet more profits. Remarkably, the Fed’s profits are also an afterthought. The Fed is trying to stabilize and increase the United States economy in the wake of the financial crisis, and its profits are a nice byproduct.
Still, these earnings blow away any other hedge fund profits.
The Fed employees who manage this operation receive a federal salary for their efforts. The money is well above the pay of the average American but still relatively modest compared with those in the financial industry. The top salary class at the Federal Reserve has a maximum of $205,570 a year. Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, earns $199,700 a year, while the other members of the Federal Reserve board earn $179,700.
Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of talking with MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan about his new book, "Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry." We had a full house at the Crawford Family Forum. The conversation was lively. The questions from the audience were great. And Ratigan didn't even remotely hold back. We were delighted that we could partner with LA's own Rare Bird Lit to make the event happen.
The book consists of Ratigan's take on a variety of challenges currently facing the country, all brought on by what we decided should be called "greedy bastardism" — there's a bit of the greedy bastard in all of us, but some greedy bastards are greedier than others. For what it's worth, I pointed out that Ratigan is in good company with his indictment of the greedy bastards. He's very upset about how greedy bastards gave us the financial crisis and are wrecking the country. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, John Steinbeck was equally enraged. And even though he would go on to write the "Grapes of Wrath," he thought that the work of journalism was the best way to make his immediate case again the perpetrators of America's misery: