Special Report: No. 4

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CNET Networks Inc. is smarting after its toughest quarter ever.The Internet media company recently laid off 10% of its workers and issued a grim warning that its first-quarter revenues would fall short of Wall Street's already lowered expectations. Yet Barry Briggs, president of division CNET Networks Media, contends the company's portal is more relevant to advertisers than ever. "There's a heritage here of strong content development that drives business decision-makers to our site," Briggs said. Recent research bears him out.

About 79% of CNET users—there are 20 million unique ones a month—are influential at all stages of their companies' technology buying process, according to Internet research firm King, Brown & Partners Inc. More importantly, 95% plan to purchase software and 97% hardware over the next 12 months.

CNET's long-standing focus on providing top-rate technology news and gadget reviews put it among BtoB's top 10 ad venues this year and last. Its expanding emphasis on newsletters, an increasingly important advertising venue, was a big reason it stayed in this year's top 10.
Phone:(415) 364-8000
Traffic:20 million unique monthly visitors
Ad revenues:$75.5 million
Ad Cost:$50 to $100 CPM (banner)
San Francisco-based CNET now has 150 newsletters, up from 61 last year (some of which were inherited when CNET acquired ZDNet). There are ten million opt-in subscribers for CNET's newsletters, most of which arrive weekly, covering topics such as Linux, Web auctions and viruses, PC browser tips and security.

With CNET's increasingly broad focus, however, comes a bogeyman: homogenization. CNET's biggest challenge will be making sure its goal of being all things to all techies doesn't get in the way of the specialization it will need to keep its loyal "I live for my Blackberry" users. Briggs is certain this won't happen. "We can be very domain oriented, and very specific," he said. "Technology has penetrated a very mass reach. I would say we cover the gamut."

Indeed, the company's recently announced acquisition of Gartner Group Inc.'s TechRepublic Inc., an IT content site with a rabid following, bodes well for CNET's longtime egghead users. CNET also hopes it will help to keep online advertisers coming back.

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