The NYT uses the pending relaunch of Disney.com — CEO Bob Iger is supposed to introduce the revamp during his Jan. 8 CES keynote — as a window of sorts into the company’s internet strategy. The central theme: too much power may be centralized at the Walt Disney Internet Group and the divisions might not have enough. The only identified sources are analysts; execs from inside aren’t signing their names to complaints that WDIG is somehow holding them back from integrating the internet into their own strategies. ESPN.com, which is far ahead of its corporate siblings, got that way, it is suggested, because it has more autonomy. (I don’t recall seeing any mention of how that same autonomy resulted in Mobile ESPN.) One other difference between ESPN.com and Disney.com: the former has one core mission — sports — while Disney.com has multiple missions and a mix of audiences.
– One aspect that can be confusing is the way WDIG operates some of its own businesses while consulting with the others about strategy. There’s some argument here for decentralizing or shifting WDIG’s mission. For instance, should the online games stay with WDIG or go to consumer products? Where does Disney Online, which operates Disney.com, really belong? Disney is far from the only company with decisions like this to make. One example: NBCU has shifted to a kind of federation with content driven by the divisions and centralized technology. But I’m not sure Disney, which has a number of sites firing on all cylinders, needs to upset this particular apple cart any time soon.
Updated: WSJ has a story as well, this more focused on the relaunch of Disney.com, and social networking as a major part of it, and Iger says the new Disney.com is “the single most important companywide strategy Disney is currently implementing.” Also this: Iger feels the company doesn’t need to do any major online acquisition like rivals are, and believes the company can largely go it alone based on the strength of the Disney brand.
In its first iteration, Disney.com will lock its audience inside the Disney world — kids won’t be able to bring in anything from outside the site. Iger accepts that the policy is restrictive and says, “we’re looking at ways to change that” — but only if contact outside the site can be policed.