Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Did AOL Ad Dollars Drop 18 Percent Last Quarter?

Along with a $25 billion write-down, Time Warner announced that operating income would be lower than it had predicted for 2008, in part because of weakness at AOL and Time Inc.

J.P. Morgan’s Imran Khan does some quick math and concludes that what Time Warner (TWX) is really saying is that ad revenue at AOL dropped 18 percent in the last quarter (see below for math). That’s awful, but believable: AOL ad revenue dropped six percent in the previous quarter, and as I noted last fall, those results only included a couple weeks of flat-out economic collapse.

This obviously doesn’t augur well for the rest of the Internet ad business, either. But only the most die-hard optimist thought that the Web was going to survive this thing unscathed anyway.

No comment from Time Warner on Khan’s math. We’ll see actual numbers Feb. 4, when CEO Jeff Bewkes announces the company’s year-end earnings results.

Khan’s estimate, from his note:

“We estimate that advertising revenue shortfall at AOL is at least $64M implying an 18.4% Y/Y advertising revenue decline. We make the following assumptions to arrive at this estimate: (1) we assume that half of the 1% shortfall in Y/Y Adjusted OIBDA growth that TWX press release attributes to both Publishing and AOL is due to online ad revenue shortfall; and (2) we assume a 100% incremental margin.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work