Tech Industry

2HRS2GO: Fan mail galore

Let's read the mail.

This isn't even close to being a representative sampling of e-mails over the last couple of months, but the ones selected offer a good look at some broader issues. All of the e-mail notes (and some of my responses) reproduced below have been edited to varying degrees for reasons of space and grammar. Visit the hypertext links to read the relevant pieces for each letter.

Why so nice to Microstrategy (Nasdaq: MSTR)?

Before you write such an optimistic article, I would suggest investigating the company's products and business lines. Microstrategy is the worst software company I have seen in my life. Their product is obsolete from technology point of view and business point of view. How could you be so optimistic about a company that is ripping off its customers and is producing absolutely nothing??

Please research your companies. Thank you.

Regards,
Darek Chrostowski

As far as optimism goes, I'm not sure what you're referring to. I don't tell anyone to buy the stock. The column doesn't even say MicroStrategy is a good company.

I think you're missing the point of the piece, which was concerned solely with the revenue recognition issue. Whether MicroStrategy's products are any good is a separate matter.

And that's generally how all of these columns should be approached: very specifically.

Stop with the market prognostication

I am a professional market maker on the floor of the American Stock Exchange. I am curious as to why journalists are trying to pick the bottom and are quoting people who always want to be right, or who are afraid of being wrong so they generally forecast only that which has already happened.

I am afraid the media promotes the sense of panic which truly exists right now. It is important for people in the media to report the news, not to try to be right about market forecasts. In this business, it is important to be right the majority of the time, not all the time. It's ok to be wrong.

Report news. Sound fundamentals. Market history. Pertinent news to individual companies. Sound analysis. I want to hear the true stories of wall street.

Jay Gebhardt

I appreciate what you're saying. We do report the news and what's going on, but if the media is guilty of 'trying to pick the bottom', it's because that's what our readers want.

For instance, Inter@ctive Investor on April 14 had many news stories about individual companies, yet the most widely read story of the day -- outside of our daily Market Close wrapup, which always leads in hits -- was the article I assume you're referring to, involving a discussion of when the market would bottom out.

I would note that it caught your eye and stimulated you to write a letter. From a media organization's point of view, that's all we can ask for.

Any media company's coverage is largely (though not entirely) dictated by what it believes its audience is interested in. Is that crass and commercial? Probably. But it would be business suicide to do otherwise.

Yes I read the article but I was frustrated. Your coverage is typically superficial.

Everyone is always forecasting what just happened. These voices should not be reported. Find people who know what they are doing. Thanks.

Jay Gebhardt

Never praise GSVI -- not even in jest

How can you recommend this stock to anyone? I don't understand. They have no experience being an "incubator", are being slapped with multiple lawsuits, and the one Internet company they had going went belly-up. Please explain. Thanks.

Dave Stacey

Here's the paragraph from the column in question:

"Outfits such as The Company Formerly Known As Cybershop -- now an Internet incubator called GSV (Nasdaq: GSVI), buy shares now, it's cheap, cheap, cheap! -- still float around in a penny stock Sargasso. The market won't be comfortable until these also-rans sink into the mire of bankruptcy or acquisition or something close to it, such as last week's investment in Peapod (Nasdaq: PPOD) by a Dutch grocer."

Take a closer look at that paragraph. The first sentence describes GSVI as existing in a "penny stock Sargasso". The mythical Sargasso Sea was known as the final resting place for lost ships. Last time I checked, that was not a good thing.

The second sentence places GSVI in the category of "also-rans" and suggested the market would be better off if the company and its ilk disappeared from the scene.

Juxtaposed with the "cheap, cheap, cheap" aside, it seems evident that the author either fell into a bout of multiple personalities, or was kidding about one element of the paragraph. Keeping in mind that the theme of that day's piece revolved around the need to eliminate bad stocks, I'll let you decide whether to focus on a single throwaway comment, or read it in the full context of the other 691 words of the column.

Point well taken. I had such a horrible experience with the stock that I couldn't see the humor.

Dave Stacey

Love and kisses from an angry E*Trade (Nasdaq: EGRP) fan

You must have gotten a margin call. You are now a laughing stock.

P.S. Does your bush league web site even make a profit?

"acn01rep"

I'm glad you asked. Let me refer you to our fourth quarter report here.

As you can see, ZDNet in the fourth quarter reported its sixth consecutive quarter of operating profitability and generated full year earnings of $14.5 million, or 20 cents per share, excluding amortization and one-time charges. On a GAAP basis, ZDNet reported 1999 net income of $1.9 million, or 3 cents per share.

As for being a laughing stock, all I can say is, I'm extremely pleased with the responses to the E*Trade column. Not that I troll for flames, but like all writers, I look for reactions of any sort. Judging by the Talkbacks, I'd say the E*Trade piece worked remarkably well. 22GO>