CNET, Traffic and the Blogosphere

| About: ChinaNet Online (CNET)

Beginning with SeekingAlpha, and followed by a post on TechCrunch, a meme is making the rounds asserting that CNET Networks (NASDAQ:CNET), which includes ZDNet, is bleeding traffic. Traffic is down in some areas and up in others. Bleeding or hemorraging traffic isn't the characterization I would use, but it's understandable how others might given how comScore counts our page views in its most recent numbers. comScore's sampled, independent estimate for ZDNet is off by several times, compared to how we count, which is actual ad-bearing pages served. In any case, the page view number is not an ideal metric. Who is served, rather than how many pages viewed, is more important. Would you rather reach tens of million of MySpacers with a message about a new server or business application or ZDNet's audience?

But I digress. What irritated me is some of the conversation in the blogosphere. Some have commented on how blogs are going to take away our audience. Perhaps it's not a well known fact that we have a lot of blogging happening on ZDNet, (check out Crave), and TechRepublic, all part of the same family, in addition to our traditional news and reviews. Frank Barnako of MarketWatch has apparently missed it. He wrote this week in his blog:

Of course, CNET is not having trouble because a young girls' site is planning a tech blog.  It's because there are already lots of tech blogs, talented tech bloggers (Om Malik and Mary Jo Foley), and blog networks (TechWeb and TechCrunch), getting investments and grabbing audience that once went to CNET, and probably also and ZDNet. Seth Godin explained it 16 months ago:  Small is the new Big.

Frank mentions Mary Jo Foley, who is a top blogger covering Microsoft, as an example of talent that eludes us. Well, it turns out she is part of our blog network, joining us a month ago after many years at Ziff-Davis (a separate company from ZDNet/CNET). 

Frank mentions Om Malik (GigaOm) and Mike Arrington (TechCrunch), real blogging pioneers who are building legitimate publishing franchises, as eating away our audience, as if it were a zero sum game in a static market and we were clueless about blogging. ZDNet is an old brand, part of that ancient online pioneer CNET Networks, so how can it be relevant in the burgeoning blogosphere? Ridiculous. We have more than 30 bloggers cranking out good and sometimes great content daily on ZDNet on technology topics. On Between the Lines, David Berlind and I are closing in on our 4,000th non-wimpy post. The Technorati rank for the ZDNet blog network is 20 out of 55 million. Also, TechWeb is not a blog network, it's a portal run by magazine publisher CMP with a few blogs, most of which haven't been updated since August.

Frank mentions Seth Godin's "small is the new big" koan, implicating Om and Mike. Seth further elaborates his idea, noting that "small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big." I would put Om, Mike, John Battelle, John Furrier, Jason Calacanis, Nick Denton and others, as well as little old ZDNet, in that category, collectively pushing the new medium forward from the bottom up and working hard to become just big.

While Om, Mike and I compete with each other, we are friends and we are rooting for each other because we share the same passion and belief in blogging as a great instrument and business model for communicating, filtering, influencing and doing our editorial best to provide useful, insightful and timely information to an audience with many choices. The audience will pay attention to those who do the best work, and will read, watch, listen and subscribe to feeds from more than one, dependable source. There is no lock-in, big or small.