Financial Timeszzzzzz

Two earnings stories on page one doesn't get it done

We like to read about earnings about as much as the next business-press-critic operation—that is, hardly at all. But even if we loved earnings, a major financial daily really shouldn’t try to sell the paper on them.

This morning’s FT, though, does just that, running three stories on page one, two of which were on company earnings. The third story was something about investors moving into bonds, which they do every day they’re not moving out of bonds.

That’s pretty thin.

Earnings happen. Every quarter. Sure, they’re the bread and butter of business news. And, yes, earnings surprises of the magnitude of Bank of America’s and Google’s this morning deserve attention.

But these days, the business press is peddling as fast as it can away from the simple reporting of yesterday’s news, and with good reason. Earnings stories are, in the end, a commodity, what you get on Yahoo! More is expected from the elite financial press.

The FT led the paper with its 300-word article on Google’s third-quarter results, which were, no doubt, quite amazing and featured a 57-percent spike in revenue. Still, earnings stories are based on press releases, and that’s basically what we get in the story, which quoted only Sergey Brin, the co-founder, and Eric Schmidt, the CEO.

’People view us as a one-trick pony because that trick is doing very well, and it took a while to learn,’ Mr Brin said. Google had succeeded in spite of being “laughed at” when it started out in advertising, and investments in other areas were likely to take “several years” to pay off, he added.

And below:

‘The seasonal weakness in traffic was milder than we expected,’ said Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer.

Not much value added there.

The New York Times ran 820 words on the bottom right corner of its Business Day front, while The Wall Street Journal ran a 688-word earnings story on A2. Both were better than the FT version

Listen, we don’t want to make too big a deal of this. The FT is, in fact, peach, a refreshing color, and we like the paper’s just-the-facts-mum style. One could also argue that its splashy play of BoA earnings, which fell a shocking 93 percent in its global corporate and investment banking division, forecast the stock market falling apart later in the day.

We also liked the pulled-out quote from Ken Lewis, BoA’s CEO, on whether he would expand the investment banking business: “I’ve had all the fun I can stand in the investment banking business at the moment.”

But put it this way: the same day the FT led with Google earnings, the Journal spun a pretty good 2,500-word yarn by Antonio Regalado and Kevin J. Delaney on its page one about Google’s problems with its Orkut social-networking site, the story timed to coincide with the earnings announcement.

That’s a big difference. And at $2, the FT costs 50 more than the Journal.

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Anna Bahney is a Fellow and staff writer for The Audit