Adam Lashinsky on the State of the Internet
Dan Colarusso on Internet Growth Projections
Katherine Hobson on E-tailers' Push for Profitability
Catherine Valenti on Ailing Internet Funds
Jamie Heller on Using the Net to Track Net Stocks
Tracy Byrnes on the Frenzy Next Time
George Mannes on Self-Hating Dot-Coms
K.C. Swanson on Old Economy Winners
David Gaffen on Measuring the Internet Economy
Ian McDonald on 'Butterfly' Companies
Justin Lahart on Real Net Valuations
Joe Bousquin on Building the Perfect Net Company
A Dan Gross Opinion Piece: Were the Old Guys Right?
TSC Roundtable on Predicting Six-Month Winners
Roland Jones on The Last Days of Daytrading
Eric Gillin on Working for a Dot-Com
The first instance of the phrase "path to profitability" that we could find came back in a 1981 Toronto
Globe and Mail
interview with Harold Berry, president of
Falconbridge Nickel Mines
. But it's not until the late spring of this year, when that "path to profitability," or worse, "p-to-p," started dropping so readily from CEOs' lips.
The falloff in dot-coms -- and Wall Street's laserlike focus on the idea that it's better to buy companies that might actually have earnings sometime in the foreseeable future -- has led to a tremendous growth in "path-to-profitability" incidence. Now we're treated to press release after press release like:
With its strong balance-sheet and substantial market capitalization, Terra Lycos will pursue an accelerated path to profitability through diligent fiscal responsibility, strategic integration and consolidation, expansion of its multibrand network, aggressive sales and marketing, and continuing exploitation of diverse market opportunities.
We are excited about the moves we are making to provide our customers with an offering consistent with buy.com's promise of deep selection, low prices and great service, while also positioning us to accelerate our path to profitability
Now, the first time you hear someone say "path to profitability," you might not think too much of it. But what if you heard it all the time? Day after day after day?
Take it from us, it's pretty damn inspiring.
On Aug. 13, 1979,
led with the cover story "The Death of Equities." The
Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 875 and was about to have its biggest decade since the Depression. More recently, Oct. 12, 1998,
ran a cover with "The Crash of '99?" in ominous black emblazoned on it. The editors had called the market bottom, almost to the day.
Nor are these isolated incidences.
market analyst Paul Macrae Montgomery has looked at magazine covers going back to 1923 and has found that they work as pretty good contrary indicators. And this makes sense -- it's a well-known fact among journalists that editors, particularly magazine editors, are pretty much the last people to figure anything out. A bear on the cover of a glossy means that all the bad news is priced into the market. A bull, and you put your money in the mattress.
Might the same dynamic be working for the dot-coms? It's an argument you can afford to make. Consider
Man of the Year,
Chairman and CEO
. Came on Dec. 27, right near the top. Then there was
March 20 "Doing Business the Dot-Com Way," which came right around the peak of
TheStreet.com Internet Sector Index
Thankfully, the magazines have done an about-face.
ran with "Lessons from the Dot-Com Crash" in late October.
The Industry Standard
had "The Truth Hurts." (And the lead sentence in the lead story in the news magazine for the Internet economy? "Maybe the Internet Economy really isn't so different after all.")
Covering the Dot-Com Drop
Montgomery reckons all this is a pretty good sign that the selling is over for the dot-coms.
"The covers make them a trading buy here," he says. "I notice there's also a dot-com death watch," he adds. Actually, there are several.