What's next for CNET?


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BNET has recently bulked up its content offerings, establishing new partnerships and expanding its business library. For example, in September, it partnered with Harvard Business Review to include briefs from the monthly publication. It also rolled out BNET Video, a broadcast channel catering to business managers, and began integrating FindArticles, an online resource that it acquired in December for $20.5 million, into its business library. In April, it introduced BNET Industries, a resource that features news and analysis of 11 industries, including advertising, automotive, energy, health care, technology and travel. Also in April, CNET Networks and Yahoo announced a three-year strategic partnership that includes content, advertising and search marketing components. Rowe said he is interested to see if CBS invests in the CNET business properties, or if, as Parker suggested, the company decides to divest those sites. If the company were to sell off BNET, TechRepublic or ZDNet, Rowe speculated that interested parties could include Conde Nast's Wired Digital Group, which last month acquired Ars Technica, a technology news and analysis site, or TechTarget, the 10-year-old information technology media company that now owns 50 technology-specific Web sites. Rowe also speculated that Ziff Davis Media might be interested in gaining back ZDNet, which CNET acquired along with other Ziff Davis Web sites in 2000. In 2001, Ziff Davis Media regained the URLs it had lost, with the exception of, which is still owned by CNET and is one of its leading global brands. “A lot of people, particularly on the client side, still think that ZDNet is operated by Ziff Davis, when in fact it's been part of CNET for a number of years,” Rowe said. “I'm sure Ziff Davis ... would love to get ZDNet back just to put all that confusion to rest.” CNET's split between consumer and business sites has been a source of confusion among some advertisers, Rowe said. “I'm sure there's a high percentage of IT pros and business decision-makers who go to the sites, but they've always had that more consumer-focused image,” he said. Still, despite any confusion, CNET has been able to maintain very high CPMs. “They tend to be the premium-priced site among those that are reaching that split between the consumer and the business-to-business audiences,” he said. “But that raises the question, if they were able to charge the premium, why were they losing money and not more successful as a standalone company? I'm sure there are a lot of answers to that, but it could be that they lost their focus and tried to cover too much territory.” M
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