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Will Facebook Be One of the Worst Investments Ever?

The invasive nature of Facebook's advertising and now trending articles shows an alarming lack of appreciation for the implications of being too well-known among consumers and businesses and a surprising absence of deftness in managing its public image. When Facebook users hit the billion mark, maybe the company should play down the milestone rather than blaring the trumpets.

Missing the obvious: Though it was founded in 1889 and thought about nothing but photography for the next 100 years, once venerable Kodak somehow missed the digital photography revolution and now finds itself an historical artifact. Interestingly, one of the few assets the company has is patents, which it is trying to sell. Perhaps if the folks at Kodak had a little more appreciation for intellectual property early on, I'd be poking fun at someone else right now.

To me what's painfully obvious is that the world is going mobile, while Facebook seems stubbornly affixed to the desktop, unable to make meaningful inroads into mobility. To wit, Mary Meeker -- once the oracle of another dot-com era and now of venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers -- pointed out that since 2009, mobile app advertising has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 153%. Facebook has failed to meaningfully address this trend. Look no further that this final risk factor from the company's prospectus:

Growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where our ability to monetize is unproven, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results.

We had 488 million [monthly active users] who used Facebook mobile products in March 2012. While most of our mobile users also access Facebook through personal computers, we anticipate that the rate of growth in mobile usage will exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future, in part due to our focus on developing mobile products to encourage mobile usage of Facebook. We have historically not shown ads to users accessing Facebook through mobile apps or our mobile website. In March 2012, we began to include sponsored stories in users' mobile News Feeds. However, we do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven. We believe this increased usage of Facebook on mobile devices has contributed to the recent trend of our daily active users increasing more rapidly than the increase in the number of ads delivered. If users increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetization strategies for our mobile users, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected.

Well, at least it's there in black and white, and no investor can say they weren't warned. A famous anonymous phrase of the last Internet bubble was, "It's different this time," which was sage foresight at first, then, finally, the ultimate statement of hubris. I can say this much with confidence: It's absolutely no different this time.
Oliver Pursche is President of Gary Goldberg Financial Services, a boutique money management firm located in Suffern, NY. Additionally, Mr. Pursche is the Co-Portfolio Manager for the GMG Defensive Beta Fund, and a Founding Partner of Montebello Partners, llc. In his role as President of GGFS, and as a member of the GGFS Investment Committee, Mr. Pursche helps oversee the investment portfolio of over 2000 clients with over $500 million dollars in assets. Mr. Pursche frequently provides market and economic commentary on CNBC and Fox Business News, as well as often being interviewed by The Financial Times, US News and World Report, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the Associated Press regarding his and the firms views on the latest market news and events. Mr. Pursche's views on the market and investment strategies have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Smart Money, USA Today and other national business publications. In addition to writing for TheStreet.com, he is also a weekly contributor on Forbes.com and BankRate.com. His daily market commentary can be read at www.betafundcommentary.com or you can listen to him on www.financialtalkshow.com weekdays at 10:00 AM.
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