Time to determine how the media biz is faring

July 17, 2009

Media companies report their quarterly results during the next few weeks, time that should help us determine the state of advertising. Has it stabilized? Is it growing? Or is spending still trending down?

Google, which kicked off earings yesterday, probably isn’t a great bellwether. After all, it was held up better than almost any other media company during the recession. Still, the largest U.S. Internet search engine hasn’t been completely immune. Revenue was up in the second quarter, but only by 3 percent.

Google executives told analysts and investors on a conference call that they believed their business had begun to stabilize, but were unwilling to predict when a broader economic recovery would prevail.

A number of analysts were unconvinced that Google has overcome the worst of it. (Just look at the stock, which was off 3 percent right after the report).

As Signal Hill analyst Todd Greenwald wrote in a report today: “Management noted that the business “stabilized” in the quarter and that the worst of the crisis was behind them. While we agree that the overall environment did improve, we remain concerned by the dramatic deceleration in Google’s core business, and believe that future quarters may slow down further.”

What is bad for Google is probably terrible for the rest of the media business. Look at NBC Universal, for instance. Parent General Electric reported that the media division’s profit fell by 41 percent.

Where does it go from here? Media executives will likely paint the brightest picture possible in the coming weeks — just as they did last quarter. Then, nearly every one of them said during conference calls that advertising had steadied and spending was set to start picking up. Now, three months later, we’ll be able to judge the accuracy of those statements for ourselves.

Keep an eye on:

  • Harry Potter is still huge. The movie brought in $104 million in worldwide during its first day in theaters, setting a new record (Reuters)
  • And brace yourself… Kara Swisher reports that “unless there is some major glitch, there might finally be a search and online advertising deal struck between Yahoo and Microsoft.” (All Things Digital)

(Photo: Reuters)

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/