Interview: CEO Quincy Smith, President Neil Ashe, CBS Interactive; Filling In Gaps, Cross Promotion

imageNow that the merger is complete, it’s time for CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS) to get onto the business of “changing the world,” in the words of newly named division President Neil Ashe. As we wrote earlier, the unit is dividing into specific verticals. Among them: News & Technology, headed by CNET (NSDQ: CNET) vet Joe Gillespie; Entertainment, which will be lead by Stephen Colvin and Anthony Soohoo; Sports, headed by Jason Kint; International, led by Adam Power; and Business, lead by Greg Mason. Ashe and CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith explained the strategy during an interview soon after the announcement:

Cross-promotion: Smith: “You’re going to see a lot more promotion and cross-marketing of CBS brands, as well as the CBS interactive personalities: (for example) Natali Del Conte on the Early Show… It’s gotta work both ways, as you known given the demographics of the CBS Corporation, it’s really found eyeballs online right now.” (Basically: CBS viewers are older and CNET users are younger, so there isn’t much overlap.) Another example offered by Smith: Moblogic recently featured 60 Minutes, prompting some eyebrow raising. In that particular case, the notion was to go out and use the online presence and find new eyeballs.” As for whether experiments like that will actually yield fruit, Smith acknowledged that it’s still an “early day,” but that the success of the NCAA streaming online was a testament to how TV could promote new internet services.

Much more after the jump

Integration: By all accounts, the merger process has gone quickly and smoothly. Ashe: “As you know this deal has closed exceptionally quickly… you’ll continue to see announcements and word from us over the next several months. Integration couldn’t be going better.” As for employee retention, Ashe assured that CNET employees are jazzed about the deal, while Smith touched on the executives listed above, and explained: everyone’s role just got bigger.

The domains: When I asked how soon we’d see the domain change from just being a tech news site, Smith deadpanned: “News is just going to be a showcase for CBS Network Evening News.” I’ll admit to not picking up the joke as soon as it was said, and both Ashe and Smith got a quick laugh but assuring that it would be nothing of the sort. Smith: “With you really have a chance to blow things up. (but) I want to be sensitive to the fact that is the pre-eminent place for tech news to date. We don’t want to disturb that. We want to learn what they’ve done in technology and make sure that if we go into more categories like sports, gossip we start getting smarter about (getting into new verticals) in a major way.” As for some of the other domains, like,, expect to see new things there quickly.

M&A and gaps: The company has made a big point of claiming that there was a lot of complementary assets, though there are still some gaps. Ashe listed a few: “There are others where we could do more. We could do more in autos; we could do more in health.” Not surprisingly, they wouldn’t comment specifically on whether this means more acquisitions, but Smith described the assets as “a great platform on which to build more growth.” Now, if CBS Interactive does go out and make more deals — and officially they’re not saying that’s what they’re going to do — then that asset doesn’t have to hang out in no-man’s land, which has been something of an issue for assets like Wallstrip and There will be a doorstep to discover it. Ashe explained the growth model: “Quincy and the team did it successfully with the acquisition and you can see the opportunity to do more and more on that” Smith: “Neil is being kind on… but now it has definitely reached the stage where it’s all about turning into a real business. What better way to do it than to latch up with its best cousin in Gamespot?”