What a difference a year makes in the land of Internet stocks. Community site theglobe.com (Nasdaq: TGLO), the poster company for Internet euphoria just about a year ago, is having a rough time now the hype has faded.
Here's the conundrum faced by theglobe.com: Once hyped to the gills from a 600 percent one-day IPO run-up, the company is now struggling to tell the long-term story (you could argue there isn't one) sans the hype. Theglobe.com is learning the IPO hype and those theoretical revenue projections cut both ways.
Theglobe.com: Hopeless without hype?
Many consumers know of theglobe.com because of the IPO surge, but can't tell you what the company does, according to theglobe.com's co-CEOs. And to many investors, theglobe.com is hopeless without the hype. Theglobe.com has always been a trade and never been an investment. Now the company has to change that perception or be a footnote.
The solution? Launch a $27 million ad campaign to get the word out. In other words -- more hype.
"It's not a question of hype," said Stephan J. Paternot, 25, co-CEO of theglobe.com, who maintains the company is a long-term contender. "It's a question of telling people about our assets."
However, frequent missteps certainly don't help theglobe.com's chances to tell a believable story on Wall Street. The company on Thursday warned it would miss its revenue targets for the second consecutive quarter and fell 18 percent Friday. Theglobe.com did say it would meet or beat estimates, but who cares? First Call was expecting a loss of 34 cents a share. When there's no bottom line, the top line growth is all that matters.
The company said the delay of two new products -- globelists and uPublish -- designed to boost ad targeting and home page building hurt third quarter revenue.
To compound matters Bear Stearns, an underwriter of theglobe.com's IPO, downgraded the company from "buy" to "neutral," the equivalent of "sell now you fool."
Bear Stearns was expecting revenue of $5.7 million and theglobe.com said it would only deliver $4.7 million to $4.9 million because of the globelists and uPublish delays. According to Bear Stearns, the products "have not proven that they can be monetized."
Paternot and co-CEO Todd V. Krizelman, 25, were quick to point out that Volpe Brown Whelan, another underwriter for the company, reiterated a "buy" rating on the stock. The report from Volpe, however, wasn't exactly thumping the table on theglobe.com. In a report, Volpe analyst Derek Brown noted theglobe.com missed revenue targets for the last two quarters and bumped up his loss estimates while cutting his sales targets.
When it came to backing up the company, Brown wrote: "We are maintaining our buy rating based on continued demand for community-oriented sites."
Not a ringing endorsement from an underwriter. Couple the recent downturn with a questionable stock split, a secondary offering, burned investors and the message board perception that both CEOs are too young and theglobe.com is a tough sell these days.
But we gave theglobe.com a shot. Here's what Krizelman and Paternot had to say:
On the stock volatility: Krizelman noted that the company has a lot of individual shareholders (roughly 85 percent). And many of the retail investors are just focused on the short-term prospects and overanalyze every twist and turn. The buy-and-hold institutional types have shied away from theglobe.com because it's an unproven company and was too pricey on the first day. "The stock ran up one day and went back down," said Krizelman. "Now people want to know how we're doing in every nuance."
Indeed, we're wondering. With every dip in theglobe.com shares, you have to wonder about the poor bloke that bought in at the 52-week high of 48 1/2, split adjusted.
On why theglobe.com is single: Geocities, Tripod and Xoom.com merged with larger players such Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), Lycos (Nasdaq: LCOS) and NBC, respectively, and it's widely assumed the community business isn't a standalone business. Theglobe.com said it's focused on running the company, but "would also look at being acquired," according to Krizelman.
Both CEOs said they didn't have any immediate prospects. And that's a bad sign. With the community market "maturing significantly," theglobe.com seems to be losing the game of merger musical chairs. The company noted they have made some recent acquisitions.
On relying on advertising revenue: Krizelman and Paternot said their ad rates range from $10 to $60 based on the levels of targeting. The company's new tools should grow traffic, but won't necessarily raise boost ad rates. Advertising represents more than 80 percent of theglobe.com's revenue currently. The target is to have 70 percent of sales advertising with 30 percent e-commerce.
On the ad campaign: The company will run 30 second TV spots in New York City and other major markets to educate folks about theglobe.com. Krizelman said theglobe.com gets 900 print media mentions a week, down about 30 percent from the IPO hype days.
On what the CEOs would tell that guy who bought theglobe.com shares at the peak: "We think the market is having a very strong reaction," said Krizelman. "But we are very strong long-term. We have to reinforce that."