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When Numbers Mean Anything And Nothing: iTunes Sales; FIM-YHOO

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It would be easy to report a couple of stat-based stories making the rounds — iTunes sales slowing and FIM beating Yahoo in page views — simply by repeating them. Too easy.
Let’s start with iTunes: Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research recently released a report based on 2,791 U.S. iTunes credit and debit card transactions. (The data was part of a subset of nearly 2 million transactions between April 2004 and June 2006.) The overall result was much along the lines of what we’ve written here before: on average, iPod owners are not major iTunes buyers. They tend to rely on their own libraries or other sources to fill their iPods. Another finding was equally unsurprising — most transactions are small. (The time covered predates iTunes Movies so that could result in larger transactions.) Some numbers went up — the number of transactions rose from two per household to nearly 17 by January 2006 and the average purchase doubled to just under $7. But the number getting the most play is Bernoff’s finding that the number of transactions after January dropped by 58 percent and the amount dropped, too. The result, he reported, is a 65 percent monthly drop in iTunes sales. He also said it was too soon to tell if what he was picking up on was a seasonal change. His point, as he told, is that music companies and music retailers should be concerned about the small number of download sales. Bernoff: “Apple is going to keep selling iPods, that’s where all the profit is for them. Not in the iTunes Music Store. … I don’t really think this [report] is bad news for Apple but I do think this is challenging for people who sell music.” Apple denied that iTunes sales are slowing but without supporting data. The market still reacted badly and the headlines kept flowing. (The best headline so far comes from our friend Rex Hammock: <a href="" title=""Reporters