OLD Media Moves

Criticizing the Barron's piece on Google

February 14, 2006

Google logoThe Internet chat rooms focused on stocks have been lit up this week about the drop in Google’s stock price, which began with a critical piece in the most-recent issue of Barron’s.

Now, others in the financial press are jumping into the fray, questioning why the story was written.

Andrew Feinberg, who writes a blog on the Kiplinger Personal Finance site called “The Money Monster,” criticized the reporting tactics in the article.

Feinberg writes, “I love Barron’s. It’s made me a ton of money, and I think its journalistic standards are high — most of the time. But, for reasons I cannot fathom, it sometimes does a hatchet job that proves embarrassing. (Hey, every week it lets Alan Abelson eviscerate the overall market, despite a track record that would embarrass a stopped clock.) This weekend it went after Google (GOOG).

“Virtually everything in the story, which says that the stock could be cut in half, may well have been true or at least not false, but the piece was unfair because it quoted not a single one of the many great investors who believe in the stock and because it assumed — wrongly in my view — that Google’s hefty spending on infrastructure and genius software mavens will never amount to anything but a drain on the corporate treasury. Google’s runaway spending disturbs me, but it doesn’t scare me away because almost every product the company introduces is terrific. (Barron’s neglected to mention any products other than search. Guess it was an oversight.) Barron’s also failed to mention that users love Google and don’t like Microsoft (MSFT) and that therein might lie an enormous long-term opportunity for Google.

“Instead, Barron’s quoted Stifel Nicolaus analyst Scott Devitt — who missed Google’s run-up completely — and Scott Kessler, S&P’s bearish Google-watcher. And the very bright Fred Hickey, who usually hates almost everything tech, including Google. Oh, and another source is Henry Blodget, the disgraced Merrill Lynch tech analyst. Yes, the piece did cite ultra-bull Mark Stahlman, but the bearish voices overwhelmed his.

“The piece reminded me of Barron’s cover-story hit on Kmart a few years ago. That piece focused solely on Kmart as a retailer — it never mentioned real estate or discussed the investing attributes of its legendary chairman Eddie Lampert — and it said the stock was toast. After a brief decline as a result of the piece, Kmart’s shares quickly doubled. The Kmart story is the most incompetent, biased piece Barron’s has ever done, I think. The Google story isn’t that bad. But it does do a disservice to the company and to any investors who bail out because of it.”

Read the entire posting here.

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