Parsing through Current Media‘s filing for a $100 million public offering, I kept stumbling over the financials section. The youth-oriented news company had a net loss of $9.8 million in 2007, based on revenue of $63.8 million. It lost $7.6 million in 2006 and $14.3 million in 2005. Altogether, Current had $36.5 million in debts as of the end of last year.
Yet until now, while the company — which is perhaps best known for being co-founded by Al Gore — wasn’t obligated by the government to tell the world, Current kept telling me it was profitable. Just last week an external PR person pitched me in an email: “Unlike so many Web 2.0 companies, they’re profitable.” And back in October, when Current was making its big online push, Joanna Drake Earl, the company’s president of new media, said in an in-person interview, “We continue to be profitable. It comes back to discipline. We didn’t want to spend marketing dollars.” I reported the situation as such in my write-up on Oct. 15.
I wasn’t the only one who took Current’s claims of profitability at face value. “Joel Hyatt is comfortably ensconced in his loft-style San Francisco office at Current TV, Al Gore’s now-profitable cable network,” wrote Fast Company last summer. “Hyatt says that Current TV is profitable and has been for nearly a year,” reported BusinessWeek in September. “Mr. Hyatt said Current TV, which is backed by two private equity firms and a group of business partners, including Ronald W. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, turned profitable in the fourth quarter of 2006, but would not give specifics,” said the New York Times in October.