Facebook Gets the Fortune Cover Curse

A breathless Fortune story — "How Facebook Is Taking Over Our Lives" — reports that more people use Facebook than watched this year's Super Bowl. Facebook's board of directors must be thrilled, right?

We doubt it. Facebook board member Marc Andreessen once cited a paper on business magazine covers as contrarian indicators:

Headlines from featured stories in Business Week, Fortune, and Forbes were collected for a 20-year period to determine whether positive stories are associated with superior future performance and negative stories are associated with inferior future performance for the featured company. "Superior" and "inferior" were determined in comparison with an index or another company in the same industry and of the same size.

Statistical testing implied that positive stories generally indicate the end of superior performance and negative news generally indicates the end of poor performance.

So what does that mean for Facebook? In this case, "superior performance" means losing money on an estimated $280 million in revenue last year — and facing more problems as the site grows.

We hear the company is even having trouble managing something as simple as a move to its new headquarters, a soulless office park facing a residential neighborhood on the other side of Palo Alto, Calif. from its current downtown digs. Local residents recently received a newsletter informing them that the move, scheduled to happen this quarter, was pushed back to April because of ongoing renovations:

Facebook Gets the Fortune Cover Curse