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Bnet.com branches out

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Since its relaunch last year, CNET Networks' Bnet.com has added a wide array of business information with the aim of strengthening the brand and garnering a bigger share of b-to-b marketers' budgets.

Bnet.com, which targets managers from the midlevel on up to the CEO, debuted in beta form in 2005 as a database of searchable business information. It rolled out a revamped version last March, with a new color palette, greater use of illustrations and, perhaps most important, original content.

Since the relaunch, the site has also established new content partnerships and expanded its vast business library. For example, in September it partnered with Harvard Business Review to include briefs from the monthly publication.

At the same time it rolled out BNET Video, a broadcast channel catering to business managers. The channel includes "Dog & Pony," Bnet's daily business show, and Selling Power, which is hosted by Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and publisher of Selling Power, and features interviews with top sales and marketing executives.

10 million trade articles

CNET is currently integrating into its business library FindArticles, which it acquired in December for $20.5 million. FindArticles, an online resource that includes 10 million industry trade articles from 3,000 publishing sources, adds to an existing library of 50,000 documents.

"We've added pretty dramatically from a variety of different dimensions to the content base," said Greg Mason, senior VP-business media at CNET Networks.

"What we want to embody over time for Bnet is that when you're in that information-need space, we are the best content provider, regardless of whether it comes from us or a partner."

Mason said that growing Bnet.com's business library is designed to attract more users, who must register to access the content. "We're able to collect relatively rich demographic information about the users on the site, so over time we'll be able to offer marketers demographic, industry and functional targeting capability," he said.

"As an ad model we're reaching the same audiences as Forbes, Fortune or BusinessWeek but with different needs," Mason said. "Users are much more `lean forward' with Bnet. When you're on Bnet you're thinking about yourself in terms of professional development rather than getting a list of news items."

Brandon Starkoff, VP-global director of ad agency Starcom Worldwide, said Bnet.com's various extensions present a huge opportunity for the Web site to grow its audience.

"Not everyone has access to Harvard Business Review and access to deep industry vertical articles. People across industries don't even know they have access to this information, and Bnet will bring it all to the surface," said Starkoff, who has been buying run-of-site ads on behalf of Sun Microsystems since Bnet.com started in 2005. The returns have been positive, he said, noting, "Both behavioral and attitudinal metrics have improved."

Bnet.com currently has 7 million unique monthly users, according to comScore. B-to-b advertisers run the gamut and include Adobe Inc., American Express Co., FedEx Corp., IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Verizon.

Software maker Adobe has been plugging its new Acrobat 8 technology through a campaign that started on Bnet.com last August. Adobe sponsors The You in Team blog that runs on Bnet.com's Insight section. The sponsorship includes content that demonstrates "how Acrobat 8 is more than just a simple PDF," said Steve Weeks, senior manager-worldwide advertising at Adobe. Adobe also runs display ads on the Insight section and Bnet.com's home page.

"Bnet took the time and effort to understand our objectives and how they can fit within their components," Weeks said. "Bnet provides information to help you do your job better and be more productive, and that's what Acrobat is at its core."

Since the campaign started, product consideration of Adobe 8 has increased 9% while awareness of its new features has grown between 8% and 10%, Weeks said.

Specific targeting

Myles Kellam, director of digital services for b-to-b ad agency Doremus, said: "Bnet.com allows me to target people in a way that maintains a broad subject matter but with specific targeting capabilities. But like so many other online properties is it going to be in it for the long haul? This time period is crucial for [Bnet] to reach ad agencies that know how to use what the site can provide."

Bnet is branching out as its parent company faces a takeover attempt by an investment group led by New York-based Jana Partners. CNET Networks recently adopted a so-called poison pill to thwart any takeover. In a filing in January with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, CNET stipulated that if 15% of the company were acquired, it would trigger a big sale of CNET stock, thereby diluting the acquirer's stake in the company.

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