It happens to every company sooner or later: Wall Street sets a mark for quarterly earnings, and the company misses that goal. Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. Today, we're diving headlong into the media, finance, and aluminum industries -- there's a little something here for everybody!

No Emmies for Emmis
Let's start with radio and TV broadcaster Emmis Communications (NASDAQ:EMMS), which reported 5% lower revenue year over year at $99.9 million, with $4.3 million of earnings from continuing operations, or $0.05 per share, compared to $3.6 million and $0.03 per share last year. The average analyst was looking for $0.11 of EPS on the same basis and an additional $3 million in sales.

These results include $2.4 million of costs for evaluating a buyout offer from current CEO Jeffrey Smulyan. But that offer, at $15.25 per share, was withdrawn, and the two parties discussed a further $16.80 price for another offer. Only that effort came to naught, as well. A 1% shareholder issued a press release, asking the board to just take that deal, as it represented a 40% premium to the then-current share price, and quite possibly the best possible exit from this troubled market.

We'll see how that plays out, but in the meantime, Emmis is paying out a special $4 per-share dividend in November. The idea is to provide some shareholder value and to reward stock-laden employees for their loyalty. That comes out to a $149 million payout, but it pales next to the $400 million spent to repurchase shares over the last year. Still, that plan hasn't done much to raise the stock price, and a dividend is guaranteed money in the pocket for the shareholders.

All of that cash has come from the sale of television stations, as Emmis works to get out of that market entirely and focus on radio and publishing operations. But maybe TV isn't the only line of business worthy of divestiture -- radio revenues came in lower this year, while operational costs for that segment increased. Not a healthy combination, that. But it looks like whatever Emmis does will come down to the whim of its chief executive, so it's hard to make any rational predictions here. That being the case, let's move on.

I thought you were the popular kid in class?
Next stop: Puerto Rico! The company this time is regional bank and Motley Fool Income Investor selection Popular (NASDAQ:BPOP), which unveiled a third quarter with $0.28 of earnings per share, when Wall Street was hoping for $0.37 per share, a 29% shortfall.

Management pinned the underperformance on rising short-term interest rates and higher costs of doing business, partly thanks to a rate war in consumer time deposits that forced Banco Popular to up its CD returns higher than it wanted to. But higher delinquency rates in both the consumer loan segment and the mortgage loan portfolio added to the cost, too, and the company is still digesting the 2005 E-Loan acquisition that added its share of operating costs to the pie.

"It continues to be a lousy year and we are underperforming," said CEO Richard Carrion, not sugarcoating the performance. He went on to highlight the mortgage unit as the area with the biggest need for improvement, while the company is doing well and seeing opportunities in the Puerto Rican market. Popular is taking market share there from the likes of Santander Bancorp (NYSE:SBP) and Doral Financial Group (NYSE:DRL), a former Motley Fool Inside Value pick.

The company's main source of income is the spread between interest earned on holdings and interest paid on its debts, and there's somewhat of an alarming trend going on there: The expense side rose 38% over the year-ago period, while income only gained 17%, resulting in a spread 0.32 percentage points below the 2005 quarter and interest margins dropping from 52.3% to 43.8%. Now, the company is still highly profitable, and I do appreciate management's candor, but Popular clearly needs to get that interest spread moving in the right direction again. And I'm not so sure it's a great idea to lean on mortgage loans these days, with the slowing housing market looming large over an entire industry. I'm sure the Income Investor team has more to say on this company, and you might want to hop on the free 30-day trial express to check it out for yourself.

Man of Steel, Iron Man ... Aluminum Boy?
Here, we're moving back to the mainland, where our last disappointment this week came from aluminum producer Alcoa (NYSE:AA). The company warned of an upcoming seasonal slowdown and lower selling prices in its last earnings report, and both of these predictions came true. As a result, earnings came in at $0.62 per share, 20% below expectations but 89% above the result a year ago. Revenues rose 19% to $7.63 billion.

The analysts didn't want to see a sequential slowdown, but they got one anyway, and there goes that target. But I suspect that's mostly OK with this management team, as CEO Alain Belda pointed out that his company is run with long-term growth in mind, not with the sole purpose of hitting short-term goals. The ongoing dismantling of the U.S. automotive industry isn't helping Alcoa today, but strong orders from heavy machinery manufacturers and the aerospace industry more than make up for that. As long as Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Airbus continue to scramble for air supremacy, and heavy truck makers like Volvo (NASDAQ:VOLV) and Oshkosh slug it out on the ground, Alcoa should continue to do well, even in an environment of dropping prices.

No more Mr. Wiseguy
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next Monday, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Volvo shareholder but holds no other position in the companies discussed this week. He doesn't think BPOP is related to TMFMmbop . The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you can see his current holdings for yourself.