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CNET's new Bnet: More than a relaunch

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Less than two years old, CNET Networks' Bnet.com site launched in a new and improved version March 1. While the prior iteration was designed as a vast, searchable database of business white papers and other content, "we realized that we weren't creating a branded relationship with Bnet because it wasn't our content," said Stephen Howard-Sarin, VP-products at CNET Networks Business.

The target audience for Bnet is management, defined as business people "who are responsible for the work of other people," Howard-Sarin said, adding that there are 49 million people in the U.S. who fit that description.

The new Bnet features how-to business stories clustered into special feature sections that include a major feature, called the Bnet Crash Course, followed by highly practical steps, tips, checklists and sidebars, such as "What you will need."

Other content comes from blogs, user discussions and comments, and the business library—the 50,000 content assets of the previous Bnet.

The design is all new, including the color palette and much greater use of illustrations, spot art, charts and graphs. A series of podcasts called "the useful commute" is already up on the site and videos are being added.

Another new feature is MyBnet, a password-protected area where a user can save downloads, links, tags, discussion threads and various preferences. At the end of each article, users can make comments or recommend the article with one click.

According to Howard-Sarin, Bnet's goal is 5 million to 10 million unique monthly visitors within a few years.

"We understand it will take time to grow to that level, but there is broad agreement within CNET Networks Business that this could be a very big property, and there is a high level of commitment to building it," he said.

Steve Weinstein, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said that CNET Networks "is very good at packaging and selling online advertising. If they had a few million high-quality decision-makers, I think they could do a good job."

Jeffrey Dearth, a partner at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, noted that Bnet, like the rest of CNET Networks, is based on an advertising model that includes impression-based and lead-generation programs. "The sweet spot for them, I think, will be lead generation. If they do that well, it could be a success," he said.

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