Is Google Getting Sloppy, or Sly?

Last week, Google was rushing to “clarify” statements by its CFO that revenue growth levels could not be sustained, which sent its stock price for a brief tumble.

This week, the company was forced to file a disclosure to the SEC as a result of comments left in CEO Eric Schmidt’s March 2 Analyst Day slides.

A few points of interest mentioned in the notes:
* Plans to expand ad offerings to include print, radio, TV, and direct mail
* Developing a branding product for large online advertisers and for offline advertisers of all sizes
* Expanding AdWords from clicks to conversions (e.g., Landing Page Optimization, Google Analytics integration)
* Some product-related tidbits

The comments that led to the SEC filing revealed that Google, at one point in time, had projected its ad sales to grow from $6 billion “this year” to $9.5 billion “next year,” and that AdSense margins would be “squeezed in 2006 and beyond.”

In the SEC filing, Google said the notes were not part of the analyst day presentation, but were somehow left over from an internal presentation early in the fourth quarter of 2005, and should be ignored.

“These notes were not created for financial planning purposes, and should not be regarded as financial guidance. Consistent with past practice, Google is not providing revenue guidance. In addition, the statement with respect to AdSense margins does not reflect Google’s current expectations,” it says.

So does anyone really believe this was a slip-up, or could this be a way for Google to unofficially, yet definitively, provide guidance, which it has made a policy not to do?

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