The earnings were great. The call could have gone better
Facebook learned the hard way that it's best not to admit that the social network may have to look beyond U.S. teenagers if it wants to keep growing.
The digital giant stunned Wall Street on Wednesday, as revenue jumped 60 percent on the strength of mobile ad sales. Shares of the company initially jumped 15 percent in after-hours trading, but the stock price kept ticking down after CFO David Ebersman acknowledged that the company had seen a decline among a certain demographic that is highly coveted by advertisers.
“We did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens,” Ebersman told analysts.
“We remain close to fully penetrated among teens in the U.S.” he added, noting that the overall numbers of U.S. teens remained fairly stable between the second and third quarters.
As Forbes media reporter Jeff Bercovici pointed out on Twitter, that contradicts what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the company's second quarter earnings call.
In response to studies, such as one by Pew Research that found that teens were souring on Facebook as it became more popular with adults and their parents, Zuckerberg told analysts then,”Based on our data, that’s simply not true.”
By the end of Wednesday's call, Facebook shares were down 1.33 percent from the closing price of $49.01.
Not that there weren't some positive moments on the call. In particular, both Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg stressed the company's growth in mobile, noting that promotions on smartphones comprised roughly $880 million or 49 percent of Facebook’s ad sales in the third quarter. Roughly half of users are accessing the service on their phones, the executives said.
“We're in the early stages of a major transition in advertising,” Sandberg noted, saying that Facebook was uniquely positioned to capitalize on the rise of smartphones, tablets and other portable electronics.
Given that the major knock on Facebook when it went public more than a year ago was that it lacked a mobile stage, investors should like those numbers, even as they fret that the kids may be moving on to the next cool thing in social networking.