It is quite amazing how different journalists, analysts and publications view financial reports from the communications and digital services industries. You would think figures are just figures, but it appears that not all are created equal.

Take for example two headlines reporting second quarter earnings for European telecoms giant, Telefónica, The first from Rethink Wireless stated, “Telefonica results solid despite economic crisis.” The second, reported in European Communications was a little less flattering – “Telefónica directors take a pay cut as profits nosedive.”

Rethink Wireless highlighted that “Latin America and new digital businesses help offset effects of Spanish problems and high debt levels” whilst  EuroComms preferred to say that “Telefónica saw profits fall dramatically and its directors agree to cut their pay by 30 per cent despite growing Q2 and half-year revenues.”

Apple copped its fair share as well with leading with the headline, “Apple disappoints Wall Street while world awaits iPhone 5,” and following up with the salutary dig that “there is no immediate weakness in Apple’s business outlook, being a public company would be so great if it weren’t for those pesky financial analysts.” (No mention of pesky headline writers, though.)

Strangely, on the very same day, in the very same publication appeared a much more flattering headline, “Big profits from Apple, big margins from AT&T” and the news that “Apple once again posted huge financials, with the iPhone and iPad maker hitting quarterly revenue of $35 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.8 billion.”

When Facebook reported its Q2 figures of $1.18 billion in revenue for Q2 was slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations and up 32 per cent year-on-year, Mobile Business Briefing headlined with “Facebook stock falls on mobile worries” highlighting its “US$157 million net loss – and little guidance on future prospects.”

The ever-positive Rethink Wireless read this a little differently with “Developer center and phone to boost mobile Facebook” and followed this with a positive spin, “Facebook’s IPO was beset with doubts about whether it could turn its massive cellphone presence into revenue and profit. Attempting to address this, the social networking firm is to open its first engineering office outside the US, specifically to focus on mobile products, services and ideas.”

However, when Amazon’s Q2 results were released most headlines expressed disappointment at the company’s $12.83 billion revenues because they fell short of estimates around $12.9 billion. Blow me down, is that being picky or what? Paid Content pulled no punches with its headline, “Amazon disappoints investors with plunging profits,” and rightfully so. Despite that massive turnover, Amazon’s net profit plummeted 96 per cent to only $7 million. But don’t be misled, for every cloud has a silver lining as Forbes Magazine pointed out. Its headline was, “Amazon’s Q2 2012 Results: Is Gross Margin Our New Prophet?” and the story highlighted the 26.1 per cent growth in Amazon’s gross margin that pushed its share price up, and not down as one would expect.

It just goes to show that analyst reports that constantly put down the telecoms industry as a high-cost, low-margin, low-growth industry reaching saturation may be missing the point completely. There appear to be many digital services players that would love to have the steadier revenue figures and more manageable cost structures of the telcos. While it’s easy to highlight the massive growth and revenue figures of players such as Amazon, Google and Facebook they haven’t been around quite as long as most CSPs and, as we have seen with may overnight successes in their space, popularity equates to value and that can change at the whim of the public.

The drive to commercialize and monetize social networking sites like Facebook after they go public ism likely to have a negative effect on users that felt less threatened by Mark Zuckerberg alone. Remember what happened to MySpace after News Limited took over? No doubt we will see many more conflicting headlines on this subject alone in the year to come and it will left to the reader to determine which is most fitting.

First published at TM Forum as The Insider, 31 July 2012.