CNET launches business site

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CNET Networks plans to announce Monday the official launch of BNET, a Web site that is aimed at business leaders and has aggregated more than 50,000 white papers, case studies and webcasts.

The launch of the b-to-b site, located at and in beta testing since last year, signals a growing and aggressive commitment by CNET to expand its content, audience and advertiser base beyond its technology- and consumer-oriented core. The company said BNET is also an attempt to move beyond the tech-focused audience of its key b-to-b technology, TechRepublic and ZDNet-by offering information of use to disciplines other than information technology, such as marketing, human resources and operations.

"We noticed there were a lot of non-tech job titles on our sites," said Jay Gulick, director of BNET. "We thought we could create a unique site that could help business people find knowledge from a cross-functional perspective."

"We are firmly committed to meeting the needs of business leaders," said Ted Smith, senior VP of CNET's b-to-b portfolio.

BNET has aggregated white papers and other content, searchable by job function (such as human resources) or industry (such as construction or financial services). Additionally, BNET offers blogs, newsletters and selected RSS feeds.

BNET's first blog, written by Don Blohowiak, an executive consultant with clients such as FedEx and Motorola, is called "Leadership.Now." It addresses leadership issues.

BNET recently launched a blog by Regina Miller, called "HR's brand new experience," which examines the intersection of branding and human resources. Miller is CEO and founder of Seventh Suite, a consultancy.

BNET is also launching several related sites targeted at specific industries or areas of interest. Among the new offerings are, and .

200,000 registered users

In its soft launch mode, BNET accumulated more than 200,000 registered users, a fraction of CNET's 29.1 million unique visitors in February, according to comScore Media Metrix. BNET's registered users come from a variety of job responsibilities. "About 18% are corporate executives with titles like vice president or senior vice president or executive vice president," Gulick said. "Seventeen percent are in HR or education, 15% are in sales and marketing and 12% are in finance."

With this audience, CNET has attracted a new group of advertisers beyond its tech core, which is essential if the company wants to continue its revenue growth. In 2004, CNET reported its interactive revenue increased 30% over 2003.

To continue that kind of growth, CNET appears to realize that it must generate ad revenue from outside the tech sector. About one-third of Internet advertisers fall into the tech category, according to CNET's analysis of Internet advertising data.

Seth Alpert, managing director at media investment bank AdMedia Partners, agreed that the move made sense but said it may pose difficulties for CNET to brand itself as a provider of business information in addition to a provider of technology information.

Alpert also said BNET will need to grow its user base significantly to make a dent in the business information space, where the leading brands, such as BusinessWeek, with 1.6 million monthly unique visitors (according to comScore Media Metrix), attract significantly more traffic. More to the point, BusinessWeek has entered into a deal with TechTarget's Bitpipe to offer its visitors online access to technology white papers.

Despite the potential hurdles, BNET is attracting the attention of b-to-b marketers, such as Phil Grabfield, CMO of Mercer Human Resource Consulting. His company markets by presenting itself as an expert in the field through white papers and other means, so the BNET site, he said, seemed like a natural to him, especially with the potential to generate traffic through CNET's other sites.

Mercer paid to post white papers on the BNET site. The leads generated have been strong, Grabfield said, although he is withholding final judgment until he can gauge whether those leads turn into sales.

Grabfield is optimistic about BNET's overall chances. "There are other aggregation sites, but it's pretty early on," he said. "They are one of the first movers in the space." M

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