Can CNET Possibly Become Cool?CBS bought CNET, the tech-focused online conglomerate, for $1.8 billion earlier this year. Which prompted the general reaction "Really, that much?" And also, "Isn't this two fundamentally boring brands combining to form a larger, still boring brand?" Well one brave man says no, it's much more promising than that: CBS CEO Les Moonves, who engineered the deal! But is he right? It's hard to see why he would be: Moonves is counting on CNET to raise CBS' revenue by two points within three years, which would mean that its online growth would have to offset the "flattening out" of CBS' own TV and radio ad revenue. But CNET is basically a tech news brand, and a pretty unexciting one. CBS is a general interest brand, and an unexciting one. So why try to make CNET another unexciting, general-interest brand?
Watching Moonves at a meeting of CNET executives, it's hard to miss the CEO's competitive spirit. The key, he says, is to boost traffic at CNET's dozen or so Web sites, which include video gamer site Gamespot.com, the all-things-television TV.com, and food site Chow.com. Katie Couric was on CNET streaming special shows from the convention. Chow.com's photogenic food editor Aida Mollenkamp is headed to a guest spot on Rachael Ray's show, which CBS syndicates, while CNET reporters are expected to populate every segment possible on its news shows.
It's going to take more than corporate synergy, though. For example, Moonves says TV.com is bound to be "the destination for online TV viewing" once it has shows from all the networks. Eh. It has a good name, but it doesn't even have CBS shows yet. The basic problem: CBS itself has an increasingly old audience. They're counting on CNET to bring in the young audience. But CNET isn't cool. And if Les Moonves is the man who has to make it cool, its chances are less than average. [BW; pic from Valleywag]