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Even Google’s Weak Operating News A Sign of Strength

July 25, 2017, 12:57 PM UTC

Oh, to have Alphabet’s problems.

The Google parent reported solid earnings Monday that nevertheless weren’t perfect, leaving nitpicking investors to drive down its stock in aftermarket trading.

With Alphabet, not much sticks. Yes, the stock was down about 3%, or $29 and change. But that was after coming darn near its all-time high, which itself is darn near $1,000 per share. During the quarter Google’s YouTube unit suffered boycotts from dissatisfied advertisers who don’t want to be associated with icky-and-worse content on the video site. The boycott didn’t cause a blip in Google’s results. The company also was stung by a massive fine by the European commission, punishing Google for anti-competitive behavior. Quarterly net income fell 28% as a result but would have risen 28% if not for the fine, which Google may appeal.

Even Google’s weak operating news is a sign of its strength—and a bad sign for the rest of us selling online advertising. As The Wall Street Journal explains, Google’s revenue per click is down dramatically even as revenue from clicks is up. That’s because mobile and videos are worse ad units than desktop ads. (People still buy desktop ads?) Declining click values is like a sniffle at Google (GOOGL) that becomes a severe cold for any online publisher that doesn’t have Google’s scale. Oh, unlike IBM (IBM), Google’s “cloud” web services business is growing healthily in competition with Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT). (As a reminder, my wife works at Google.)

Plenty could derail Google, including antitrust concerns and the still-profligate ways of the “other” units in Alphabet. But not soon. The juggernaut marches on.


Oodles of regions around the world brag of their ability to become the “next Silicon Valley.” Fortune’s Clay Dillow has a fine piece in the new issue of the magazine about why Canada’s province of British Columbia has a better-than-usual shot at becoming a contender for California’s throne. As for the reason I’ll leave you with a hint: It has to do with the immigration-unfriendly policies of the administration on the other side of the continent.

Adam Lashinsky