Breakout

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Failbook: 1 Year After IPO, Troubles Remain

Breakout

It's hard to believe but a year ago at this time everyone cared about Facebook (FB). The company was culturally relevant. The idea of owning the stock had investors giddy pre-IPO and miserable literally a day later. The only question was not if but how the geniuses at Facebook were going to make inroads into mobility while maximizing profits from conventional desktop users.

As it turned out, Facebook's didn't have any real idea how to address mobile. What they've done is use the $16 billion of IPO proceeds to throw money into an abyss of laughably bad initiatives and promotional events designed to convince advertisers that users of Facebook mobile apps aren't turned off by product placements.

To be fair every ad-based internet company on earth has the same problem. The others get a pass on their efforts to crack the code on "monetization" because they don't have much riding on mobile bets and haven't been as splashily inept in their efforts.

In January FB hyped up what was supposed to be a game changing new pillar of their business model. The result was Graph Search. Suffice it to say Google (GOOG) remains the market leader in search.

A month ago at another over-hyped event as Facebook unleashed Home. It was a product that was teased to be a Facebook Phone and turned out to be little more than an app that hijacked user's phones. To say customers disliked Home is to suggest they cared about it at all. Fewer than .1% of Facebook users have downloaded Home and the product is reportedly being overhauled.

All of which would be well and good if Facebook was Microsoft (MSFT). Unfortunately Facebook has neither the track record of success nor, more importantly, a cash cow underlying business. Even after gauging the public with its IPO, Facebook lacks the cash to rely on billion dollar purchases like Instagram to keep users interested.

Even bulls like Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities concede Facebook's spending has been higher than anyone expected and the company has little to show for it so far.

If Facebook's upside is getting a taste of the $300 billion television advertising business, where clicks don't matter and "brand awareness" is the the company's main selling-point to potential customers, the company will fail.

After 12 months Facebook hasn't made enough progress to be considered a growth play and doesn't have a convincing plan for reaching some far off goal of recapturing Wall Street passion. The most convincing thing Facebook has said in the last 12 months is that they're not going to run the company with shareholders in mind.

The bigger question is why shareholders should care at all about Facebook.

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