With representatives of Jana in the room at the Needham Internet and Digital Media Conference, CNET (NSDQ: CNET) CEO Neil Ashe made the case that the company is on an upward trajectory courtesy of higher traffic, the recently announced Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) deal and strong growth in China. A theme he emphasized several times: CNET’s brands are strong and growing, and the company’s platform has the agility to effectively profit from them.
Yahoo partnership: While this deal has been discussed in light of recent pressures, Ashe insisted that it’s part of a long-term process initiated last summer: “We started this process to affect our yield management strategy… we wanted to outsource about 20 percent of our ad inventory.” In addition to ads, there’s the Yahoo Tech side — which, he noted, was the latest in a string of efforts originally designed to go after CNET: “They’re effectively now outsourcing the majority of that content to us.” That side will include links back to CNET, driving traffic. As for advertising on Yahoo, Ashe noted that CNET will track its users who also use Yahoo, allowing it to deliver effective advertising. More after the lunch…
China: “The headline for us outside of the U.S. is China, where we have a large and thriving business.” Because the company owns a diverse set of assets there, he likened it to owning “CNET, Edmonds and iVillage in 1998.” When asked, Ashe wouldn’t break out a revenue number on its China assets, though he said they were growing faster than total international, which was up 26 percent (so really this could mean anything). CNET has said in the past that it’s likely to seek an outside investor for these assets, but so far there’s nothing to announce.
Jana: Ashe had no official comment on where things stood on this (nor did anyone from Jana), but it’s all business: Both sides chatted amicably after the presentation. Meanwhile, the appeals process continues.
Ad serving: One criticism of the company is that its ad platform is proprietary and outdated, though Ashe dismissed this: “(We’re) not alone in operating our own ad server… the reason you do that is to have flexibility… Our platform allows for whatever best-of-breed module you’d like to plug into it.”