SAN FRANCISCO -- No one should really be surprised by
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
analyst Mary Meeker's positive comments on
The high-profile analyst, who was featured in the weekend issue of
, has been tracking these issues for most of the '90s and now includes them on a list of favorites printed in
. Her firm even served as an underwriter for some, such as
Regardless, Meeker's comments, combined with a strong overall market, once again sent Internet stocks flying today. Broadcast.com,
, Amazon.com and Verisign -- all mentioned among Meeker's favorites -- all hit new highs in early trading, and @Home was just shy of its highs. Also on Meeker's list of favorites was
. That stock rose 1% today, but was still several dollars off its record high set Dec. 8.
Benjamin Fights Back
You just can't keep a budding media star down.
BancBoston Robertson Stephens
Keith Benjamin used his
Weekly Web Report
as a soapbox to shoot back at
analyst Henry Blodget, who smacked a
$400 price target on Amazon.com last Wednesday. The bullish price goal sent the stock soaring 19% in one day.
"Maybe we're just frustrated with the volatility," says Benjamin in his report, "but we believe stock movements of this magnitude should be justified by significant news, like surprising increases in revenues."
Blodget last week defended his controversial target, saying he was doing what few analysts were willing to do by putting his money where his mouth is. Benjamin says price targets have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's why he has stopped publishing his price targets in the weekly report. "Price targets appear to be adding to stock volatility without helping to make a long-term investment case," he says.
Then there's the issue of all the easy media attention that suddenly occurs when an analyst's call triggers movement in an Internet stock. Benjamin, who's also an unabashed Internet bull, has cultivated something of a media image for himself. He's set up his own Web site, www.internetstocks.com, which sometimes seems to focus more on Benjamin than on the latest ins and outs of Internet stocks. The site includes Benjamin's Internet index; the latest news about what's happening to Benjamin; and a vast
photo library, with Benjamin in a variety of poses such as playing with a squirt gun.
Media Metrix Merger Muddle
today issued its first list of the Web's most-visited sites since the company's merger with
in October. To combine the data of both, Media Metrix used a new method of crunching the numbers that skews comparisons with previous months.
Not a huge problem, but the press release announcing the November traffic figures failed to mention that it was incompatible with previous reports. "We thought people would just understand that
this report was not trendable to older data," says Media Metrix spokeswoman Michelle Beilsmith. "We assumed falsely that people would understand."
Even the companies appearing in the report were not informed. Netscape was baffled as to why the report said that its reach numbers slid to 29.9% in November from the 33.4% reported in October. (According to adjusted numbers from Media Metrix, Netscape's reach in October was 31.7%.) Netscape spokeswoman Erin Schlough said that Netscape was looking into the reported decline, but if anything, numbers should have been up. "We're close to reaching 10 million members," says Schlough. "Our traffic is going up."
Andrea Williams, an analyst for
Volpe Brown Whelan
, could hardly believe that Netscape's reach had fallen 10%. She says she wrote it off to an error in numbers.
Error? No. Lack of information? Yes. Media Metrix plans to re-release in the coming days its monthly reports going back several months to reflect the combined data.
So who are this month's big winners? E-commerce players, like Amazon.com and eBay, and electronic greeting card company
Blue Mountain Arts
saw the biggest jumps, says Beilsmith. Amazon.com's November reach jumped to 31.8% from 11.6% last month. eBay saw its November reach climb to 7.7% from 5.7%. Blue Mountain's reach jumped to 16.0% from 13.4%.