April 14, 2016 Last Updated 4:47 pm

Earnings preview: Rough first quarter expected for some big name techs and publishers

Morning Brief: The Guardian talks about steps it is considering to lessen the impact of growing ad blocker usage, fearing that a point has been reached where the percentage of readers using the solution is now impacting revenue

The earnings season begins soon as companies begin to report their first quarter earnings (though, of course, some companies have financial calendars that do not match the standard calendar). Apple, for instance, reports earnings on April 25 and already there is talk concerning just how bad the quarter might be. The company forecast lower iPhone sales during their last earnings conference call, and several trading websites are recommending shorting the stock.

iPhone6s-175But my fear is what the earnings will look like at several major publishing houses. This isn’t a stock trading site, so I will not go into names, but I fear at least a couple of the new publishing firms that were spun off in the past two years are looking at horrific earnings in Q1. Some have begun layoffs quietly, hoping people won’t pay attention, but when you start consolidating publisher positions, or layoff digital ad sales professionals, you know things are bad.

Who reports when:

Netflix: April 18
Amazon: April 21
Alphabet (Google): April 21
Apple: April 25 (moved to the 26th)
Meredith Corp.: April 28 (reported elsewhere as the 21st)
New Media Investment Group: April 28
The New York Times Co.: May 3
Tribune Publishing: May 4
Time Inc.: May 5
Gannett: May 5
News Corp: May 5

Guardian-web-screen-780The Guardian admitted earlier this week that they are looking at ways to make the life of those who use an ad blocker on their browser a little less pleasant. What the chief executive of Guardian Media Group, David Pemsel, is seeing is that up to 25 percent of readers are now using an ad blocker.

“If more and more of those ad-blockers are introduced, we will be far more aggressive by saying ‘you are consuming our content for free, you can’t’, and turn it off,” Pemsel said at the recent FT Digital Media conference in London.

“I think we were slow to this because we were so conscious about how to talk to our readers. We are now testing in certain environments very extreme graphics. You can whitelist, pick certain brands, content distributors and say ‘I don’t want the ad-blocker to be served there’.”

What media companies aren’t prepared to do, apparently, is call out their competitors who are making the reading experience so bad that readers are seeking out ad blocker extensions for their browsers. Instead the blame is being shifted to the reader, or to the tech companies, who are merely responding to the terrible web publishing practices being seen from many large publishing houses. This site, for instance, will rarely link to a Gannett website, and never to one that lies behind a solid paywall (as opposed to a metered paywall).

During my days at a Hearst Newspaper in Los Angeles I got the pleasure of watching Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play each fall and winter. By the time I left for the Bay Area the string of championships was winding down, and later when Kobe Bryant arrived I had stopped watching much NBA basketball.

But it was nice to see what happened Wednesday at the Staples Center, when in his last game, Bryant scored 60 points. It was his Ted Williams moment (he hit a home run in his last at bat of his career).

Up north, the Warriors were breaking the Bulls record for most wins in a season, something the does not sit well with Chicagoland residents. But then again, they are still talking about the ’85 Bears as if it was just yesterday.

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