CNET Is Bleeding Traffic

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CNET has had a difficult time lately. CEO Shelby Bonnie resigned earlier this week in the midst of an option repricing scandal that has already claimed General Counsel Sharon Le Duy, Senior Vice President Heather McGaughey of Human Resources, and former CFO Doug Woodrum.

And recent data suggests that CNET’s overall traffic isn’t just flat, it’s declining at an alarmingly swift pace. A Jeffries & Company report released on Wednesday points to a third quarter 50% drop in CNET traffic compared to the same period in 2005, including a whopping 69% drop in traffic at WebShots.

A closer look at Comscore data for CNET shows September 2006 traffic for all CNET properties at 616 million page views, v. 1.37 billion page views in September 2005. Individual properties like Webshots went from 971 million monthly page views to just 213 million. ZDNET fell from 12 million to 8 million page views. CNET reviews went from 31 million page views to 24 million. The list goes on. All major CNET properties are either flat or down, and some are down substantially. The lone exception is download.com, which had 84 million page views in Sept ’06, up from 70 million in September ’05.

CNET seems to be getting hammered on all sides, with tech blogs eating up many page views that would otherwise go to them, and new social networking and other sites eating into Webshots and other CNET properties. CNET is still a company with a $1.5 billion market cap, and revenues continue to increase in this favorable advertising market (2006 estimated revenues are $400 million). But rapidly declining page views point to a less than exciting future for the company.

On the plus side, CNET seems to be making efforts to make their sites for relevant to its audience, and many of these changes are so recent that it will take a while to see how they affect traffic.

I’ve contacted CNET for a comment and they should be back to me today. I’ll update this post with any new information.

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