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From...
Industry Standard

9 most important online content providers

November 29, 1999
Web posted at: 9:11 a.m. EST (1411 GMT)

by James Ledbetter

(IDG) -- Dead is the world in which the Internet was the exclusive realm of tech wizards. The evidence is everywhere: Martha Stewart is planning an IPO, and America Online now adds about a million new users every month. As our list indicates, ZDNet and CNET still have a spot at the podium, thanks to their veteran status, and tech-oriented content companies post respectable if not stellar results. Even though ZDNet watched its stock and everybody else's tumble this summer, a billion-dollar market cap is no pittance. And CNET has become profitable, although investors balked at a massive offline advertising campaign. But they no longer define the Net, and it's hard to imagine that they'll ever again enjoy such a dominant position.

While the geek world is on the decline, still unreached is the promised land of Big Media and Internet convergence. True, many big media conglomerates have bought their way into the Web's most highly trafficked noncommerce sites. And a few namely NBC are so deeply invested in the Net that they're bound to one day get it right. But almost all of these behemoths lose millions, even tens of millions each year on their Web projects. (Dow Jones is the notable exception).

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  1. CBS: For a while, it seemed CBS was destined to lag behind the other networks in Internet matters. Granted, the company's investments in SportsLine and MarketWatch were respectable, but it seemed CBS had taken a scattershot approach. The recent lackluster stock performance of both sites only intensified the impression that CBS was losing the race to Disney's ABC and General Electric's NBC.

  2. CNET: In the last year, CNET has grown from a shaky Internet content provider to finally earn the right to call itself a successful media company.

  3. Disney: When Disney agreed with Infoseek to add Disney content, including sites run by ABC, to the Go Network, executives imagined the combination would rack up sky-high traffic numbers. So far, though, the big merger hasn't proven as "synergistic" as Disney had hoped.

  4. Dow Jones: Long the major player in the business of business news, Dow Jones has adapted to the needs of the Internet audience more successfully than any other newspaper publisher in America. The Wall Street Journal's Interactive Edition is probably the company's best-known Net asset. While Web advocates have long insisted that online denizens won't spend money on content, the Interactive Edition has steadily built a readership that now counts more than 300,000 paying subscribers.

  5. Internet Entertainment Group: It's the Internet economy's dirty, open secret: A lot of Web traffic continues to go to "adult entertainment" sites. And it isn't just going to professional pornographers, either: While Lycos and Theglobe.com may not want to flaunt it, a number of those personal home pages serve up photos of more than just cats and dogs.

  6. iVillage: It hasn't been easy for iVillage. For instance, it has already gone through five CFOs, one of whom made public accusations of ledger fiddling just as the company was going public (IVillage denies the charge.)

  7. NBC: NBC has been by far the most aggressive old-media company to invade the Internet. The 1996 launch of MSNBC in partnership with Microsoft looked like a massive risk at the time; few imagined that there was room for another round-the-clock news station.

  8. Time Warner: As with so many big media companies, Time Warner's killer Internet presence always seems to be one move away. Industry analysts anxiously await the full emergence of the company's hyped "hub" strategy, which will organize its prodigious content into five categories: news, finance, health, sports and entertainment. The stakes are high for Time Warner's online reputation, given the debacle that was Pathfinder the company's unsuccessful attempt to build a Net portal.

  9. ZDNet: ZDNet runs the most exhaustive computer and technology portal on the Internet. And it has the traffic to show for it. After America Online, ZDNet consistently ranks as the most visited content provider on the Web, drawing nearly 7 million unique viewers each month, according to Media Metrix. ZD offers some 60 different sites, attracting every type of tech-head around, from hardcore programmers to more casual computer shoppers.


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