CNET: Don’t Call It a Widget

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Plagued by anemic page-growth, CNET (NSDQ: CNET) plans to address that problem in a roundabout way. This week, it will begin releasing more of its content to outside websites, and the company doesn’t want to call it widgets, or, well, traditional syndication. This content will be ad-supported, but more than aiming for additional ad revenue, CNET CEO Neil Ashe tells Ad Age that he is more interested in using wider distribution to attract new readers to its stable of sites. Some of the details behind Ashe’s plans include:

Not a widget: The basic idea propelling its syndication strategy is simply to make its content accessible anywhere by any site, which, in no-spin language is using widgets. In addition to sharing its content with AOL, (NYSE: TWX) Monster and Wikia, it will also offer a self-serve model. Ashe notes that syndicators will be featuring CNET’s full content, emphasizing that this is different than just placing some headlines and story summaries on widgets (meaning users don’t have to jump off the widget to CNET’s sites).

Page-Stagnation: In October, CNET attracted 35 million visitors to its sites, according to comScore. While that number sounds healthy, J.P. Morgan analyst Imran Khah recently wrote CNET’s page-growth rate is significantly lower than its peers. Ashe guesses that the syndication program could bump up page-growths another 10 percent.

Location Focus: Separate from the content side, the San Francisco-based company wants to increase its presence among those on Madison Avenue by expanding its New York City office. As we noticed around the time of its earnings report, which saw Q3 net losses widen, one of CNET’s recent hirings included Jack Haire, who retired from Time Inc. as EVP-corporate sales & marketing, in December 2005. Haire was named chief client officer on the ad sales side, along with Stephen Colvin, formerly of Dennis Publishing, as EVP-entertainment and lifestyle, and former Entertainment Weekly Publisher Dave Morris as SVP-network sales.

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Frank Sinton

"content accessible anywhere by any site" – smart.

It is more than widgets, of course. CNET (and every media company for that matter) should think of their syndication strategy not just as "any site". It is also any device, screen, virtual world, feed reader, and media player. Content needs to be able to move about as needed by users.

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