Microsoft posted its earnings report early (who knew?)

seleritycorpAlongside the news of Microsoft’s second quarter earnings (yup, they’re still making boatloads of money, except for Online Services – MSN and Bing – which are still losing boatloads) came an interesting little twist.  A small, ahem, “low latency, real time-fact aggregation and event data company” from New Jersey, Selerity, posted Microsoft’s news at 2:50pm EST, a full hour and 10 minutes before the earnings report was due to be posted.

Selerity has built a business at getting to earnings reports before they are due to be announced, apparently largely by automating a process that guesses at the URL for the report based on previous earnings report postings.  Usually the company gets to reports of at least some of the 700 or so companies it follows a bit early, but this was a home run.  A Forbes post on Selerity and the Microsoft earnings report scoop quotes founder Ryan Terpstra:

Scanning for such releases can glean an important bit of information in early, but Terpstra says he’s never gotten as far ahead of news like Microsoft’s quarterly earnings numbers as he did Thursday. “This is definitely the first time we’ve scooped other organizations by an hour plus,” he says.

Terpstra went on to say that the URLs weren’t hard to find:

“If you know that URL — and it’s the same URL they use every quarter — you could have gone to your Internet Explorer and obtained the release,”

Of course if you’ve been following LiveSide over the years, you know that these kinds of things seem to pop up quite often.  We posted the Windows Live Wave 3 and Essentials 2011 Beta refresh download links early, for example, by doing exactly what Terpstra and Selerity did (although we didn’t automate the process, hmmm, good idea!).

We’ve also found “unreleased” information on help files, on integration servers, on public SkyDrive folders, and just plain old out there in the open (if you know where to look), with Microsoft apparently putting a lot of trust in security by obscurity.

Now getting a download site ready to be hit by millions of clicks from all around the world, and turning it on in an instant is a tricky thing, and it’s probably always going to be a game of cat and mouse when it comes to download links, but Microsoft promised the SEC that this early release of valuable stock market information wouldn’t happen again, according to Bloomberg News:

Microsoft said in a statement earlier today that media outlets posted a preproduction draft of its earnings release to the Web before the market closed. The company said it then posted its official numbers “after consulting with Nasdaq” and would take steps to ensure such a situation doesn’t recur.

Looks like it’s clear that companies like Selerity will be watching carefully, and of course we will too.