Mark Zuckerberg Should Tell the Public to Drop Dead

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Facebook ( FB) releases its first earnings report as a public company after the bell on July 26.

At this point, there's no word on what CEO Mark Zuckerberg will do. Will he appear on his company's conference call? Or will he leave it up to COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Ebersman? Put me down for the latter. And give me another hundred on his absence triggering even more media-generated Facebook hate.

Ever since the Facebook IPO, the popular furor chided Zuck for not making a "statement" about everything that went down. The media ridiculed him for scheduling two of his life's biggest events -- the IPO and his wedding -- back to back. Of course, he's a multi-billionaire now, so Zuck should have just faxed his main squeeze the prenuptial agreement, ordered in a few pizzas and got back to work. As if the media hacks who generate all of this transparent outrage even have a clue about what a CEO like Zuckerberg does.

Let's get one thing clear: Rare-breed visionaries generally do not do conference calls.

At Apple ( AAPL), Steve Jobs typically delegated the task of conference call play-by-play and color commentary to the CFO (Peter Oppenheimer) and COO (at the time, Tim Cook). You will not find Jeff Bezos on an Amazon.com ( AMZN) call, nor will you hear the visionary who created Pandora ( P), Tim Westergren, on his company's Webcast.

Executives at this level simply do not have time for the dog-and-pony show of a conference call.

It's a bit like the elite professional athlete. I often wonder why these guys waste their time and breath answering questions from a gaggle of nerds who never played the game or did not play it all that well. Generally, when former (and respected) players ask the questions, current players give much better answers.


It sounds a bit pompous, but if a hockey player, for example, gave anything other than talking points like, we're just going to take it one day at a time, ya know, eh, would the run-of-the-mill sports reporter or fan understand the response? Highly unlikely. Just look at how investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban schooled (well-known media hack) Skip Bayless on ESPN recently. (This link will take you to an outside source.)

That's classic. Even if you're not an NBA fan.

The takeaway from that exchange runs parallel to something Steve Jobs apparently told his marketing department at Apple: You worry about the back covers, I'll worry about the front covers.

In other words, you go by the book -- the way sports reporters will fall back on the "generalities" Cuban accuses Bayless of using -- and do what a "good" marketing person does. You make the phone call, purchase the ad space on the back of the magazine, make sure accounts payable gets the invoice and let me take care of the real marketing.

Like Cuban and, to a greater extent, his players and management who understand the ins and outs of basketball, the real expert, Jobs, knows how to get his mug on the front page of the magazine -- the only page that really matters.

It's not all that different at Facebook. What Zuckerberg accomplished, no matter how much the media and the general public wants to discount it, ranks right up there with how Jobs changed the world. Facebook absolutely transformed society across the globe.

While you can credit the smartphone with much of Facebook's (or Pandora's) success, flip that logic over. The popularity of social networks and discovery platforms helps keep smartphones not merely relevant, but increasingly necessary tools of everyday life.

Plenty of preparation goes into a quarterly conference call appearance. Zuck doesn't need that time drain. That's why, like Jobs, he hired a strong and more-than-capable COO. Like Tim Cook has done for some time, Sandberg will smile and act like the analyst from Piper Jaffray, or wherever, just asked the most insightful question ever. She will do a bang up of positioning Facebook the way Zuckerberg and his team want it positioned at this juncture.


You and I rarely get to see the Facebook (and Apple and Amazon and Pandora) pow-wows Zuckerberg likely leads. The meetings, impromptu gatherings and email exchanges that visionary CEOs like Zuckerberg control and direct on the way to achieving incredible things.

If the public has a problem with the way Facebook rolls, Zuckerberg should say "drop dead." You'll still log into your Facebook account to check for new friend requests or tally up your "likes." There's more work -- commissioned by Zuckerberg -- going on at Facebook than most of us could probably ever imagine.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB and P.

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