Hits & Misses
(Business 2.0) – [HIT] Fake and scathing 1, fair and balanced 0. CNN and MSNBC have gotten used to losing to Fox News. But during the Democratic primaries, an unexpected foe stole the ratings crown from all three. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a mock news program airing on Viacom's Comedy Central, attracted more viewers at 11 p.m. than any of the cable news channels in the last two weeks of January, outdoing Fox by 20 percent even as the news network was running live campaign coverage. Stewart's fake news show has won ever-growing audiences with help from real politico guests like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards.
[MISS] The fund-raising diet. Local Girl Scout troops depend on sales of Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos for about half their revenue, but now the cookie's crumbling. In Southern California, troops blamed the supermarket strikes; in New England, cold weather contributed to sales declines of as much as 10 percent. But the real problem is the popularity of low-carb diets, a fad to which the Girl Scouts' bakers have yet to catch on. The Houston council did the math: By touting buttery shortbreads as the most Atkins-friendly (4.5 grams of carbohydrates per cookie), the Texas scouts kept sales even with last year's.
[HIT] Pret-a-port. Phone-number portability has been costly for wireless carriers, but others are finding ways to cash in. RadioShack's net profit rose 17 percent in its most recent quarter, thanks to strong cell-phone sales and service-plan signups. The electronics retailer was well prepared when the new rules went into effect in November, having retrained employees, posted portability tips online, and worked hand-in-glove with two of the favorite carriers among consumers who switched--Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless--to ensure seamless changeovers.
[MISS] When the chips are down. In February, Intel CEO Craig Barrett finally fessed up to a rare failure: Intel's 64-bit Itanium chips have been losing to AMD's Opterons, which are more compatible with current software. Intel will now adopt AMD's approach of adding 64-bit features to 32-bit chips, putting the company at least a year behind its rival. To make matters worse, Intel slipped from first place to fourth in sales of flash memory--the kind used in the white-hot categories of cell phones and digital cameras--after hiking prices 40 percent.
[HIT] Divide and conquer? Some will surely call this a "miss" from an ethical perspective--it depends on where you stand with respect to human cloning. Yet South Korea has established itself as a force in biotech after a team from Seoul National University recently became the first to successfully clone human blastocysts, the early-stage embryos that produce stem cells. The advance could give Korean researchers a leg up, so to speak, on their American counterparts, who face far more stringent restrictions on both cloning and the availability of stem cells. And on the horizon lies the promise of therapeutic cloning, or the use of human stem cells to repair and reproduce organs and tissue; according to some estimates, the market for therapeutic cloning has the potential to reach $10 billion.
[HIT] Now that's business intelligence. Like the rest of the software industry, SAS saw disappointing sales in 2002. But the Cary, N.C., firm more than made up for it in 2003, scoring a 13.5 percent increase in revenue to $1.34 billion. Reorganizing its sales force into industry-specific groups helped: Purchases of its data-analyzing "business intelligence" software by banks, brokerages, and insurers leaped 21 percent.
[MISS] Bubble flubble. After Business 2.0 advised readers not to buy a list of 10 high-flying tech stocks, several on the list--including Juniper Networks, Rambus, and Research in Motion--jumped 100 percent or more. Experts (especially those at the magazine) believe that the stocks remain irrationally exuberant at their new levels. Meanwhile, the editors are wading through a pile of requests from companies angling to be on the next stocks-to-avoid list.