Some weeks are harder than others.
After all, this weekly column entails me bashing a stock -- before ultimately replacing it with three stocks that I feel will perform better. The level of my venom will vary, though my enthusiasm should be unwavering.
However, I'm going to single out one of my favorite stocks this week. It's also a very popular pick in the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service, where I am one of the analysts tasked with picking out disruptive growth stocks that will beat the market. Don't worry, as two of the three replacements will be active picks from the same growth stock research service.
Who gets tossed out this week? Come on down, Google
More goo than gull
Google has pulled off some pretty hilarious April Fool's Day jokes over the years. Pranks like Google Romance and the pigeon-pecking algorithmic enhancements to search are classics. However, it delivered the mother of all jokes yesterday, when it slapped the "beta" tag on the Gmail service it launched exactly five years ago.
What's that? Google's e-mail service is actually still in beta? It wasn't an April Fool's Day joke? Wow.
We may as well start with Gmail, though, since TechCrunch is reporting that News Corp.
Big deal, you say. Free email is a tough nut to monetize. I hear you, but did you check out Twitter's blog last night, where the fast-growing site is beefing up its search capabilities? Then you have Facebook, which seems to be in a perpetual state of evolution to make its social networking site stickier and stickier.
Add it all up, and the Web 2.0 darlings are finally starting to become thorns in the sides of conventional search portals like Google. As sites like Facebook and Twitter become more popular -- and more homepage-worthy -- it makes it less likely that they will stray to perform a search through Google.
Sure, the Web 2.0 sites have partnered with the dot-com bellwethers in the past. Google pays News Corp. for the right to serve up search. Microsoft
The shift in power comes at a terrible time for Google. Analysts have been scaling back profit projections for Google over the past few months. They now see Google growing its earnings by a mere 7% this year. The 15% target for next year is better, but Wall Street has been talking down that target as well.
My devil's advocate diss of Google a few months ago centered on the dot-com superstar scaling back its empire. Now it's simply paying the price.
I still love you to death, Google, but bring back the growth stock I originally fell in love with.
As is true every week, I don't talk down a stock unless I have three alternatives that I believe will outperform the company getting tossed. Let's go over the three new fill-ins.
(NASDAQ:BIDU): If you're looking for a little more octane in a search engine, analysts see China's leader growing its bottom line by 25% this year and 34% next year. Sure, Baidu is also trading at a loftier valuation than Google, but the upside of China's Internet migration -- relative to Google's global wager -- is stronger.
(NASDAQ:RATE): If more sites become launching pads for portal offerings like search and email, your best bet may be on the content companies where info seekers wind up landing. It's hard not to like Bankrate, since there is really no rival when it comes to collecting interest rate information on everything from money market funds to home refinancing. Bankrate is coming off a year of healthy top-line growth, and this was in a year in which banks tightened up. It may be bumpy in the near term, but until a clear threat to Bankrate emerges, you may as well ride it.
(NYSE:TWX): Swapping out Google for Time Warner may sound like heresy, but let's consider what has transpired in recent months. Google has willfully given up its "king of all media" crown as it has backed out of print and radio advertising. This gives media moguls like Time Warner more control over its sponsors. Between the spin-off of Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC)and the overdue shakeup at AOL, Time Warner promises to be an exciting story in 2009.
Other headlines out of the weekly Dumpster:
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is still a huge fan of Big G. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick 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.