Kara Swisher

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Liveblogging Demand Media's Q1 Earnings: Perky Perfecting!

Today, after Demand Media beat Wall Street expectations, its execs got on the horn with investors to explain how it plans to beat the Panda.

That would be the beastly name for Google’s rejiggering of its search algorithm, in order to rid search results of poor quality content.

Along with many other sites, Demand has gotten smacked by its raging paw.

Still, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company reported revenue of $79.5 million and six cents a share in adjusted net income.

Wall Street was expecting the company to report about $69.6 million in revenue for the three months, with four cents a share in adjusted profits.

On a GAAP basis, net loss per share was 13 cents compared to 94 cents a year ago.

Here’s the liveblog of the conference call:

2 pm PT: Demand’s investor relations dude came on and I immediately tuned out until CEO Richard Rosenblatt got on the line to talk about the results.

He was as perky as ever, launching right into the meat of the situation–how Demand was going to pretty up its offerings, such as a redesign of its flagship eHow site and its new editorial arrangement with another perky person, food lady Rachael Ray and the also perky fashionista/talk show lady Tyra Banks.

Gone will be user-generated content that Demand used to let people post at will on its eHow site that was, well, less than good.

As in, bad.

Instead, it’s “curation,” “editorial innovation” and feedback cycles.

We old-timers like to call that journalism and copyediting, complete with mean old editors who spiked said copy when it was crappy.

“Let me be clear,” said Rosenblatt, the Google changes did negatively impact Demand’s traffic. But Rosenblatt said the company dug into its content and has been improving it since.

2:17 pm: Now it was CFO Charles Hillard reading the results themselves. I am sorry, Mr. Finance Guy, but I can read it myself, so this is always the time in earnings calls when I check out and spend my time improving my content.

So when I heard words such as “stock-based comp,” I moved on to fixing all the typos that a very nice reader alerted me to, since I was writing too quickly.

Then, I briefly considered writing a high-quality post for eHow on how to write earnings and fix typos at the same time. I am that good.

2:30 pm: The CFO dude finished up and the Q&A with analysts started.

All Panda questions, natch!

Rosenblatt seemed calm, cool and collected.

“We think on this one, they did a very good job,” he said of Google’s search-fixing efforts, trying to soothe the savage beast. “We all continue to evolve.”

Which translated to: Google says jump and we say: “How high?”

Which is then followed by: “Please sir, can I have some more (traffic)?”

More Google algo change questions.

I suspect there is a new tactic afoot by Demand: Bore us into submission about the traffic devastation from Larry Page’s minions with endless questions about algo.

Finally, a question about mobile and international expansion. Apparently, Demand content is going to be translated into five different languages.

Yay! I am readying my version of “How to Boil Water” in French! (“Comment Faire Bouillir L’eau”!)

Mobile is going to be big too for Demand, which it is for everyone.

Then it was onto a question about improving content, including paying its writers more moolah, which would then eat into the Demand cheaper content business model.

I liked that question! I suddenly decided I was going to shift to a lugubrious post on the history of the Maginot Line in 132 parts!

Oops, Rosenblatt said the data has to show that the peeps want those longer pieces.

Back to the boiling water opus!

It’s on to some video questions and then back to search, as in diversifying away from relying on search to get traffic and premium prices for its advertising.

As in, how much are you going to cozy up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg?

“It’s less about where traffic comes from and more about where they land,” said Rosenblatt, except you just know he sent a lovely floral bouquet plus a hefty selection of citrus to Zuckerberg’s new house in Silicon Valley right after Panda roared.

Rosenblatt deflected a lot of questions in this arena. “We still think that search is a fantastic way” to gain traffic, he said, making sure Google’s Page did not chomp off his hand as he courted his social networking nemesis at Facebook.

But as the old Kikuyu proverb goes: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

More likely, as Mary Chapin Carpenter sings: “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.”

We’ll see which is which for Demand in the quarters ahead.

Until then, here’s Carpenter performing her song, “The Bug”:


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle