News of the Week: My Thoughts on the Facebook IPO

I’m not following the Facebook IPO offering. I’m also not an expert, or even very knowledgeable about the present world of stock buying and selling.

But I know a dumb bet when I see one.

Much like Groupon’s IPO, I wouldn’t buy this stock if I did have all the money in the world. Why? Because there’s no commercial future in Facebook, as far as I’m concerned. Societal, well, that’s another dealio.

If monetizing depends on advertising (and I don’t think it does, but until THEY figure that out, this opinion holds) then Facebook’s fucked on race day.

Just this week, GM announced they’d decided to pull all advertising from the site, which has a larger stranglehold on the public than any entity in the world. Why? Because the branding pages are free.

What’s the Big Picture at Facebook? Apparently they’re working on at least one, possibly two Smartphone devices. This from a company that has spent three years trying to deliver its own branded app for smartphone use, which offers little stability, and delivers on few of its so-called features. More on that in a moment.

Zuckerberg himself stated that the future of Facebook is in mobility use, because the stats for mobile use of the site is skyrocketing. Nearly 10% of its audience doesn’t ever access it from anything but their phone. More than half its users frequently use its mobile site only.

I’m one of the latter. Increasingly, I’m using it less on my mobile device, which means less overall, since I seldom sit at my computer beyond my workday. It’s a pretty simple reason behind this shift. The app just don’t work, Mom. Seldom does it load profiles or news stories, both of which are 80% of why I read the site at all. Instead, it hangs there in deadspace, sapping my battery as it constantly tries loading.

And if it wasn’t bad enough that Facebook was failing to monetize its web-based site, they admit they’re kinda stumped on how to monetize the mobile site.

I don’t get the problem. If companies like GM want to reap the rewards of engaging their public on Facebook, why are they not made to subscribe? Have a like-based monthly subscription fee between $1 and $50, and at least take in money there. That’s practically a no-brainer. Hard to be able to argue against the efficacy of having a space on the world’s most widely-viewed website.

In fact, I’d say a branding page is worth far more to a company than adspace. They can engage, interact, and respond to consumers. They can continue to brainwash the devotees, while winning over new audiences they may have never reached before via interesting articles and posts that can be shared from user to user while always citing the original source, the branded page.

Groupon had a $6 billion offer they rejected from Google, all because of arrogance about how quickly they took on the world and how popular they had become. But they were only unique until they were duplicated, and now there’s no point in having loyalty to Groupon because they fucked up the service end of matters, and they can offer a better discount than the next guy, because everyone’s offering the same. The $6 Billion Google Buy Bust is gonna go down as the biggest “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” in corporate buy-out offers ever.

Now Groupon trades below their initial IPO. Why? There’s no real value there. You’re not buying into a unique syndicate, real estate, or tangible investments. There’s an arrogant CEO who drinks copious beer in meetings, and they have poor accounting practices.

What works as a private entity can often fail as a public one when there’s a figurehead at the helm.

Enter Facebook.

Zuckerberg really is a genius. He’s been fantastic at rolling with market demands. He’s seen the future of what the internet could be on a social and commercial scale. And, for the first time ever, the world has a website that has literally changed the way we are as a people, and how we interact.

When people say “Well, someone else could’ve built the same site,” I have to laugh. They didn’t. No one did. Some whizkid from Harvard cracked the code. No one else did, so stop saying it so flippantly. You cannot deny the influence Facebook now has, and Zuckerberg is the man behind that vision.

Zuckerberg is one of the great minds of our time. Period. 28 or not, a great mind.

But I wouldn’t buy his stock.

I don’t think it’ll bottom out, but it’ll lay there like a lazy lover.

Social relevance doesn’t mean you can take it to the bank. Facebook had a great model, but if they want to be a publicly held company, they’ve got to have a lot more up their sleeves.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s enough. Maybe the phone is a thing of brilliance the world won’t mind forfeiting their privacy to when their every little activity is datamined by the grand-daddy of  all datamining, Facebook. Maybe.

But I still wouldn’t but the stock.

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