The Internet List
03/24/00 - 03/31/00

About the Company

The press release. It's one of our basic tools for learning about a company. It's also a company's most basic tool for telling its story. While some companies put out only the occasional announcement, others keep the PR machine running full tilt. The press release lets the company put an initial spin on its story and establish the terms for how its announcement gets reported and interpreted. Comparing secondary news write-ups to a company's original announcement can be enlightening, both for the differences between them (the spin on the spin) and for their often remarkable similarities (the virtual cut-and-paste of the original).

In addition to the announcement itself, press releases also contain a certain amount of boilerplate, the ritualized words that vary little from one release to the next. These can usually be found at the top of the release, more often than not in the first sentence:

"This Company, the world leader in whatever it is that it supposedly does, today announced..."

These phrases also show up toward the end of the release in the "About the Company" paragraph. It's easy and almost automatic to skip over and ignore these words as we scan the text for the meat of an announcement. Of course, there is sometimes little meat there, try as the company might to present another run-of-the-mill quid pro quo as a grand "strategic alliance," or a me-too product enhancement as the greatest thing since the last me-too product enhancement.

Nevertheless, it's through these tag lines and catch phrases that companies define themselves to the media, investors, and the public at large. The boilerplate text of the press release can contain useful information. What a company chooses to emphasize tells us how it wants to be positioned and understood, so changes in familiar PR-speak are worth examining. This is especially true with growing and dynamic companies where strategic expansions are commonplace, and where business models not only evolve but also can undergo major overhauls.

In such cases, the updated catch phrases reintroduce the company and declare, in effect, "This is who and what we are now." These new self-definitions are attempts to reposition the company relative to its peers or its former peers, as well as to its former self.

Yahoo!: A Case in (Exclamation) Point

When Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) launched its new FinanceVision service earlier this month, the "About Yahoo!" portion of the announcement described the company as "a global Internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to 120 million users each month worldwide." The company first hit on that formulation around the time it released its FY 1999 results. In making the announcement, Yahoo! said one of the keys to its core business strategy is to become "the world's largest enabler of transactions," which it would do by providing "the most diverse set of commerce services on the Web."

That's quite an ambition. It's also a far cry from how Yahoo! described itself in announcing its April 1996 initial public offering. Back then, the company was "a branded Internet navigational service," and one of the most widely used guides to "information and discovery on the World Wide Web." Of course, everyone has to start somewhere. And after Yahoo! UK joined its Japanese and Canadian counterparts in September of that year, the company was billing itself as "a globally branded Internet navigational guide."

Some six months later, with expansions into France, Germany, and Ireland behind it, the self-description also expanded, with Yahoo! signing off on its Q1 1997 results as "an Internet media company that offers a network of globally branded properties, specialty programming, and aggregated content distributed primarily on the Web serving business professionals and consumers."

Noticeably de-emphasized in that mouthful were references to search and navigational guides. Those were moved farther down into an "About Yahoo!" paragraph that described an increasingly complex and ambitious company. In their place were media, content, and branded properties, which the company had been "continuing to develop" during the previous four quarters. These promises emerged as part of a global network far more substantive than one might have expected from "Jerry's Little Guide to the Web."

Like most companies, Yahoo! played with its self-description over the following year, adding, cutting, and rearranging words, at one point paring things down to "global Internet media company that offers a network of branded Web programming."

No significant changes were made to the company's legend until 1998's third quarter, following the acquisition of Viaweb (which became Yahoo! Stores) and the launch of Yahoo! Auctions. The company decided to stick with "global Internet media company," but the balance of the description was upgraded, and e-commerce was formally pulled into Yahoo!'s orbit as the company began presenting itself as "a branded network of comprehensive information, communication and shopping services."

Things remained more or less intact over the next year until "shopping services" gave way to the more inclusive (and less pedestrian) "commerce," while the excessively syllabic "comprehensive information" was dropped altogether. This found Yahoo!, in October 1999, standing before its 105 million worldwide users as "a global Internet media company that offers a branded network of media, commerce, and communication services."

From that most businesslike portrait of the grown-up search engine, it's just a simple nip-and-tuck to the self-definition that Yahoo! currently boilerplates: "A global Internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to 120 million users each month worldwide." How long will this one last? Your guess is as good as mine.

By itself, the "About the Company" description in the standard press release can't tell us what we need to know about a company or its suitability as an investment. But it can offer a framework for thinking about a company's day-to-day operations and for making sense of the actions and initiatives it takes. Over time, changes in how a company defines itself should trace the course of its development and, in effect, name the different stages of its evolution.

--Nico Detourn

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                                % Change
                               03/24/00 -
Company                Ticker   03/31/00    Info   Messages
-------                ------   ---------   ----   --------
CheckFree               CKFR      15.21%    Info   Messages
Media Metrix            MMXI      12.84%    Info   Messages
barnes/noble.com        BNBN      11.85%    Info   Messages
Spyglass                SPYG      10.98%    Info   Messages
Excite@Home             ATHM       7.33%    Info   Messages

MCI WorldCom            WCOM       6.19%    Info   Messages
EarthWeb                EWBX       5.35%    Info   Messages
Cendant                 CD         4.58%    Info   Messages
NetSpeak                NSPK       2.68%    Info   Messages
Lycos                   LCOS      -1.93%    Info   Messages

ICG Comm                ICGX      -2.03%    Info   Messages
go.com                  GO        -2.92%    Info   Messages
CNET                    CNET      -3.10%    Info   Messages
Net.B@nk                NTBK      -3.27%    Info   Messages
NBC Internet            NBCI      -3.52%    Info   Messages

Microsoft               MSFT      -4.87%    Info   Messages
America Online          AOL       -5.68%    Info   Messages
E*TRADE                 EGRP      -5.84%    Info   Messages
Freeserve               FREE      -6.02%    Info   Messages
CyberCash               CYCH      -6.12%    Info   Messages

CMGI                    CMGI      -6.59%    Info   Messages
uBid                    UBID      -6.77%    Info   Messages
Amazon.com              AMZN      -7.83%    Info   Messages
Concentric Net          CNCX      -8.33%    Info   Messages
Peapod                  PPOD      -8.50%    Info   Messages

theglobe.com            TGLO      -8.86%    Info   Messages
Intuit                  INTU      -8.99%    Info   Messages
MarketWatch.com         MKTW      -9.21%    Info   Messages
PSINet                  PSIX     -10.02%    Info   Messages
Inktomi                 INKT     -10.06%    Info   Messages

Earthlink Net           ELNK     -10.12%    Info   Messages
Egghead.com             EGGS     -11.46%    Info   Messages
Priceline.com           PCLN     -11.60%    Info   Messages
Yahoo!                  YHOO     -11.66%    Info   Messages
Cyberian Outpost        COOL     -12.82%    Info   Messages

Natl Disc Brok          NDB      -12.89%    Info   Messages
Schwab, Charles         SCH      -13.08%    Info   Messages
Juno Online Svcs        JWEB     -13.41%    Info   Messages
go2net                  GNET     -13.55%    Info   Messages
Knight/Trimark          NITE     -13.65%    Info   Messages

Ameritrade              AMTD     -13.86%    Info   Messages
DoubleClick             DCLK     -14.30%    Info   Messages
Sec 1st Technolog       SONE     -14.74%    Info   Messages
MP3.com                 MPPP     -14.95%    Info   Messages
Tktmstr-CitySrch        TMCS     -16.47%    Info   Messages

Verio                   VRIO     -16.56%    Info   Messages
Infospace.com           INSP     -17.19%    Info   Messages
Beyond.com              BYND     -17.53%    Info   Messages
VocalTec                VOCL     -18.52%    Info   Messages
Exodus Comm             EXDS     -18.93%    Info   Messages

NetZero                 NZRO     -19.74%    Info   Messages
Drugstore.com           DSCM     -20.06%    Info   Messages
24/7 Media              TFSM     -20.11%    Info   Messages
iVillage                IVIL     -20.90%    Info   Messages
Sportsline USA          SPLN     -21.09%    Info   Messages

RealNetworks            RNWK     -21.26%    Info   Messages
Ask Jeeves              ASKJ     -21.63%    Info   Messages
CheckPt Software        CHKP     -21.71%    Info   Messages
TheStreet.com           TSCM     -23.25%    Info   Messages
CDnow                   CDNW     -24.40%    Info   Messages

RSA Security            RSAS     -26.19%    Info   Messages
Network Solutions       NSOL     -27.39%    Info   Messages
eBay                    EBAY     -27.79%    Info   Messages
Open Market             OMKT     -30.29%    Info   Messages
Engage Tech             ENGA     -33.64%    Info   Messages

Broadvision             BVSN     -33.82%    Info   Messages
Healtheon               HLTH     -34.17%    Info   Messages

Dow Industrial Ave                -1.72%
S&P 500                           -1.89%
Rule Maker Port                   -3.34%
Nasdaq                            -7.86%

Rule Breaker Port                 -8.05%
Dow Internet Comm                -13.66%
Dow Internet Index               -16.83%
Dow Internet Svc                 -17.42%
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                          Close    Close  $ Change % Change
Company           Tkr  03/24/00 03/31/00 03/24/00 -03/31/00
-------          -----  -------  -------  -----------------
24/7 Media        TFSM   $49.44   $39.50   ($9.94)  -20.11%
Amazon.com        AMZN   $72.69   $67.00   ($5.69)   -7.83%
America Online    AOL    $71.50   $67.44   ($4.06)   -5.68%
Ameritrade        AMTD   $24.25   $20.89   ($3.36)  -13.86%
Ask Jeeves        ASKJ   $78.00   $61.13  ($16.87)  -21.63%

barnes/noble.com  BNBN    $8.44    $9.44    $1.00    11.85%
Beyond.com        BYND    $5.19    $4.28   ($0.91)  -17.53%
Broadvision       BVSN   $67.81   $44.88  ($22.93)  -33.82%
CDnow             CDNW    $5.00    $3.78   ($1.22)  -24.40%
Cendant           CD     $17.69   $18.50    $0.81     4.58%

CheckFree         CKFR   $61.19   $70.50    $9.31    15.21%
CheckPt Software  CHKP  $218.50  $171.06  ($47.44)  -21.71%
CMGI              CMGI  $121.31  $113.31   ($8.00)   -6.59%
CNET              CNET   $52.31   $50.69   ($1.62)   -3.10%
Concentric Net    CNCX   $60.00   $55.00   ($5.00)   -8.33%

CyberCash         CYCH   $14.38   $13.50   ($0.88)   -6.12%
Cyberian Outpost  COOL    $9.75    $8.50   ($1.25)  -12.82%
DoubleClick       DCLK  $109.25   $93.63  ($15.62)  -14.30%
Drugstore.com     DSCM   $16.50   $13.19   ($3.31)  -20.06%
E*TRADE           EGRP   $32.00   $30.13   ($1.87)   -5.84%

Earthlink Net     ELNK   $21.63   $19.44   ($2.19)  -10.12%
EarthWeb          EWBX   $23.38   $24.63    $1.25     5.35%
eBay              EBAY  $243.75  $176.00  ($67.75)  -27.79%
Egghead.com       EGGS    $7.94    $7.03   ($0.91)  -11.46%
Engage Tech       ENGA  $115.00   $76.31  ($38.69)  -33.64%

Excite@Home       ATHM   $30.69   $32.94    $2.25     7.33%
Exodus Comm       EXDS  $173.31  $140.50  ($32.81)  -18.93%
Freeserve         FREE   $83.00   $78.00   ($5.00)   -6.02%
go.com            GO     $21.25   $20.63   ($0.62)   -2.92%
go2net            GNET   $93.19   $80.56  ($12.63)  -13.55%

Healtheon         HLTH   $34.94   $23.00  ($11.94)  -34.17%
ICG Comm          ICGX   $36.88   $36.13   ($0.75)   -2.03%
Infospace.com     INSP  $175.63  $145.44  ($30.19)  -17.19%
Inktomi           INKT  $216.81  $195.00  ($21.81)  -10.06%
Intuit            INTU   $59.75   $54.38   ($5.37)   -8.99%

iVillage          IVIL   $19.81   $15.67   ($4.14)  -20.90%
Juno Online Svcs  JWEB   $18.19   $15.75   ($2.44)  -13.41%
Knight/Trimark    NITE   $59.06   $51.00   ($8.06)  -13.65%
Lycos             LCOS   $71.63   $70.25   ($1.38)   -1.93%
MarketWatch.com   MKTW   $38.00   $34.50   ($3.50)   -9.21%

MCI WorldCom      WCOM   $42.67   $45.31    $2.64     6.19%
Media Metrix      MMXI   $37.22   $42.00    $4.78    12.84%
Microsoft         MSFT  $111.69  $106.25   ($5.44)   -4.87%
MP3.com           MPPP   $24.69   $21.00   ($3.69)  -14.95%
Natl Disc Brok    NDB    $56.69   $49.38   ($7.31)  -12.89%

NBC Internet      NBCI   $44.63   $43.06   ($1.57)   -3.52%
Net.B@nk          NTBK   $13.44   $13.00   ($0.44)   -3.27%
NetSpeak          NSPK   $20.88   $21.44    $0.56     2.68%
Network Solutions NSOL  $211.69  $153.70  ($57.99)  -27.39%
NetZero           NZRO   $19.00   $15.25   ($3.75)  -19.74%

Open Market       OMKT   $36.94   $25.75  ($11.19)  -30.29%
Peapod            PPOD    $2.94    $2.69   ($0.25)   -8.50%
Priceline.com     PCLN   $90.50   $80.00  ($10.50)  -11.60%
PSINet            PSIX   $37.81   $34.02   ($3.79)  -10.02%
RealNetworks      RNWK   $72.31   $56.94  ($15.37)  -21.26%

RSA Security      RSAS   $70.19   $51.81  ($18.38)  -26.19%
Schwab, Charles   SCH    $65.00   $56.50   ($8.50)  -13.08%
Sec 1st Technolog SONE  $100.50   $85.69  ($14.81)  -14.74%
Sportsline USA    SPLN   $37.31   $29.44   ($7.87)  -21.09%
Spyglass          SPYG   $69.88   $77.55    $7.67    10.98%

theglobe.com      TGLO    $7.00    $6.38   ($0.62)   -8.86%
TheStreet.com     TSCM   $12.13    $9.31   ($2.82)  -23.25%
Tktmstr-CitySrch  TMCS   $30.00   $25.06   ($4.94)  -16.47%
uBid              UBID   $31.44   $29.31   ($2.13)   -6.77%
Verio             VRIO   $54.00   $45.06   ($8.94)  -16.56%

VocalTec          VOCL   $35.75   $29.13   ($6.62)  -18.52%
Yahoo!            YHOO  $194.00  $171.38  ($22.62)  -11.66%
___________________________________________________________
                      Close       Close   $ Change % Change
                   03/24/00    03/31/00 03/24/00 - 03/31/00
                   --------    -------- -------------------
Dow Industrial Ave 11112.72    10921.92    (190.80)  -1.72%
Dow Internet Index   462.32      384.51     (77.81) -16.83%
Dow Internet Svc     596.31      492.42    (103.89) -17.42%
Dow Internet Comm    280.34      242.04     (38.30) -13.66%

Nasdaq             4963.03      4572.83    (390.20)  -7.86%
Rule Breake     $850489.40   $782006.30 ($68483.10)  -8.05%
S&P 500            1527.46      1498.58     (28.88)  -1.89%
Rule Maker       $56534.94    $54647.32  ($1887.62)  -3.34%
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