Even in a holiday-shortened week, silly corporate moves are in ample supply. Let's look at five that may make your head spin.
1. Bang a gong, Viacom
Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) had better recognize the footprints. A judge is ruling that YouTube must turn over user data, including user names and IP addresses, in Viacom's copyright-infringement lawsuit against the video-sharing juggernaut. The cable network giant behind MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central wants the data to prove that YouTube users are watching a lot more than just legally owned, user-generated content.
This move should not be interpreted as a sign that Viacom will be suing individual YouTube users, though privacy activists will rightfully rake Viacom over the coals. Here you have a media giant that leans on viral videos from time to time through VH-1 and its comedy news shows, and now it's going for YouTube's jugular? Anyone remember when the major record labels began demanding user IP data and suing individual file swappers? Life hasn't worked out so well for the music companies since then, has it?
2. Farmer in the Dell
Shares of Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL ) rose on Wednesday, on news that founder and CEO Michael Dell purchased roughly $100 million worth of his company's stock over the past week.
Insider buying is typically a positive sign that someone who knows the company well sees brighter days ahead. The problem? The last time Dell put his money where his mouth was, back in April 2006, Dell was trading around where it is today. So much for insider visibility! Put another way, if Dell had invested that money in either of his two fiercest rivals -- Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) or Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) -- he would be wealthier today. Why will things be different this time?
3. The burdens of being a barista
Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) keeps retreating. The company announced that it will close 600 stores and eliminate 12,000 positions in the United States. The clincher is that the stock initially moved higher on the news.
The market has a funny way of rewarding the white-flag wavers sometimes, but this isn't some value stock that's about to improve margins by squeezing costs. This is a broken growth stock coming to terms with its fading domestic relevance. When a company prides itself as being in the people business, not the coffee business, it can't sugarcoat layoffs and closures.
4. Redemption lasts as long as the walk to the next banana peel
In a first since I started this column last month, a company did the right thing and reversed something stupid that I'd noted in an earlier piece. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) gets a big thumbs-up after restoring its Netflix Profiles feature that allows family members to set up individual queues under a single account. Killing the feature, even if it was lightly used, was a blunder on many different levels. Kudos to Netflix for bringing it back to life.
Unfortunately, Netflix still finds a way to tumble into this week's column. Remember the Netflix Player by Roku? The $100 box, which allows Netflix subscribers to stream some of their DVDs through their home theaters, sold out quickly, but it may not be exclusively a Netflix-streaming device. A Forbes article this week quotes an executive at Roku who claims that a software update later this year will allow the box to stream other big-name providers. That's great for Roku, but not so great for a box that bears the Netflix name.
5. Lose the hyphen
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) is getting a new logo. It's replacing its blocky, hyphenated signage with the hyphen-less "Walmart" in burnt orange. The company is coming off a healthy quarter, so it's not as if the world's leading retailer is in need of a tune-up. Does it really need a new logo? If it thinks it needs an attitude adjustment, shouldn't the changes be coming from inside the stores, not on the sign outside?
Oh, and what's the deal with orange? Would that be mandarin orange, as in the way the company outsources the manufacturing of its wares to China? Not to mention that having orange in a logo hasn't worked out so well for the likes of Home Depot and Orange Julius.
Let's beat the dumb-drum: