Updated: Jana Offers CNET Plan: Slams Management; Wants More Social Media; Settlement Rejected


Updated below after the jump, response from CNET

The ultimate dis: CNET (NSDQ: CNET) is stuck in Web 1.0. That’s according to activist investor Jana Partners in a new white paper explaining its turnaround plan for the company. In it, the investor group argues that CNET’s existing management has presided over a significant destruction of shareholder value and that the backgrounds of CEO Neil Ashe and CFO Zander Lurie, as well as its current board of directors, are ill-suited to guide the company as it turns itself around: “We believe CNET


90's dotcommer

They are wrong about SEO – they have a dedicated, active group who do very well, and they daily monitor SE referrals.

Social media – the communities at TV.com and GameSpot are among the best on the web – but they could do more elsewhere.

Layoffs – they were needed – CNET has made a few acquisitions over the last couple of years without any change to staffing efficiency. Some people at CNET are working all God's hours, others were not so busy. It needed to be rationalised and was.

Ad network – CNET hasa better idea with its Open Content platform, which is to build an ad network based on the distribution of its own content. That way they can verify the quality of the content. I know a couple of the multiple site ad networks run by publishers both here and in Europe; and most of them are doing appallingly and it isn't working, sites in the network are continuing to rely on AdSense and affiliate promotion for revenue. BAD idea, Jana.

Outsource Ad Serving – this is right, they should do this. The cost of running a homebrew is prohibitive, and means you also have to invest in R&D;to keep up. Outsource!

Neil Ashe – alas, this is true. He is not a charismatic people person, which is what media companies need. Almost all of the other directors are fine,especially those who have monitored growth areas for the business (they, and Jana, know who they are). They should bring back Shelby Bonnie.

Jana directors – many of them have a pattern of failure. I won't go into it here but half of the names they propose do not have a long-term, successful track record in media – especially the ones they choose to put emphasis on.

CNET is undervalued. Jana do not mention their market-leading sales operations and marketing support, a key driver of success in this marketplace. If CNET was just two years old, the market value would be much higher.



These guys are certainly right that Neil Ashe is far from being an Internet expert. You cannot today run a major web company without having the right expertise. Being a pure finance guy doesn't make the grade.

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