Dot-Com Power Hitters Can't Bunt

Some online giants apparently aren't cut out to cash in on the latest web trends.

Let's go over some of the white flags that went up in August alone:

  • Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is discontinuing its $0.99 digital rentals of television shows.
  • City-centric user review website Yelp! is scaling back its daily deals, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.
  • Facebook nixed a similar Groupon-esque initiative that it had been trying to get off the ground for four months.
  • Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is shutting down its walmart.com MP3 downloading service after eight years of selling digital music.
  • In China, Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) killed off micro-blogging website Baidu Shuoba.

I don't want to say that Internet heavyweights lack focus, but after seeing hardware like TouchPad and Kin have the lifespan of a fruit fly, I'm guessing that patience is a rare commodity for tech stocks these days.

I do get it. There weren't enough studios playing along with Apple's cheap boob tube rentals. If Groupon is losing a ton of money, why should Facebook or Yelp fare any better in social couponing? Try as it might, Baidu was never going to catch up to SINA's (Nasdaq: SINA  ) Weibo in the micro-blogging space.

Wal-Mart is the lone standout here -- giving its service two presidential terms to prove itself -- but one can argue that this is also the problem of waiting too long to surrender.

Sure, there are still some niche specialists holding out. Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO  ) continues to offer up local Groupon-like vouchers in addition to its published travel deals. OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN  ) also isn't saying "Check, please" to its Spotlight social couponing plan. However, these are becoming the exceptions to the bandwagon-hoppers.

An optimist would argue that this is a good thing. As big as these tech biggies may be, they are self-aware enough to realize that they can't excel at everything. However, the itchy trigger finger also makes it harder to take any future attempts at incremental revenue streams seriously.

If we're timing commitment and conviction with egg timers, something's wrong.

Track these companies to see what they will quit next:

The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of OpenTable, Travelzoo, SINA, Baidu, Apple, and Wal-Mart Stores, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores and a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz routinely checks the deal sites. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Travelzoo. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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