Monday, October 18, 2010

Google's Turning Point

By Eric Jackson
RealMoney Contributor

10/18/2010 5:30 PM EDT
Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Google (GOOG - commentary - Trade Now) earnings last Thursday were a turning point for the company. Even after Friday's big 10% bump up in price, the stock is still down 3% for the year. Negativity has surrounded the company for most of the year -- some of it deserved, in my view, because of missteps (like Google's awkward and ill-advised withdrawal from China in the spring), and some of it not.

The concern for investors for much of the year -- aside from the whole China kerfuffle -- has been whether Google is just a one-trick pony.

Sure, it's been a hell of a pony, but investors have been wondering if Google could leverage its dominance in text ads for search into other areas. The company has thrown a lot of pasta against the wall over the years -- everything from Google Wave to Orkut to its $1.6 billion acquisition of YouTube a few years back - but not a lot has stuck in terms of meaningful profits... at least, not yet.

So, what was so eye-catching about Thursday's earnings call was that Google decided to give some specific data on its key new areas of growth.

The key stats revealed by the company were that:

  • The mobile business is contributing more than $1 billion annually in revenue (calculated by taking the last quarter's revenues and annualizing them)

  • Display advertising (as a result of the Double-Click acquisition a couple of years ago and the YouTube display ads) is contributing more than $2.5 billion annually in revenue (calculated using the same methodology as mobile)

  • More than 2 billion YouTube videos are viewed each week
  • What also seemed to surprise analysts on the upside was a drop in Google's TAC (traffic acquisition costs) in the quarter. Google is no longer paying News Corp's (NWS - commentary - Trade Now) MySpace for traffic under a very lucrative (for MySpace) agreement, struck a number of years ago when MySpace was still the big dog of the social-networking space.

    So, the market is starting to sit up and take notice of Google again in the last two days. And why not? These metrics are important indicators of the company's future success.

    The area that intrigues me most -- as a long holder of GOOG -- is mobile. This $1 billion in revenue is all from mobile ads. Google is still in a land-grab mode with Android. It continues to give away the operating system for free to carriers in order to drive adoption. And that is certainly working, as Android has grown from nothing to major mobile player in the last year. Many expect it to surpass Apple (AAPL - commentary- Trade Now) in terms of mobile market share soon, as it is now part of so many devices.


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