By Kyle Austin
So how will Dan Farber save the sinking ship that is CNET? News broke yesterday on News.com (or maybe Valleywag) that Jai Singh, senior vice president and editor-in-chief at CNET will be leaving the organization on March, 10, 2008 and will be immediately replaced as editor-in-chief of CNET’s News.com by Dan Farber. CNET will have to look elsewhere to fill Singh’s other corporate hats at CNET, but the big news is the change of quarterbacks in editorial content.
CNET may not be in as dire straits as many make them out to be. Sure, their overhead is far greater then the overhead that Michael Arrington and Om Malik are working with at TechCrunch and GigaOm respectively. Sure, they’ve lost touch with the next generation of “techies” who like the coolness factor of TechCrunch, GigaOm and even the Valleywag. But the one thing they still have going for them is a domain that drives traffic and an aggressive reporting style.
According to Compete site analytics CNET.com had seven million unique visitors in January and its news property News.com had 1.2 million unique visitors. Comparatively, TechCrunch attracted roughly 900,000 unique visitors and GigaOm drew around 200,000 visitors last month.
However, when you look further at these numbers you can see where TechCrunch has blown News.com out of the water with its “cult like” following. When taking into account multiple visits by the same user, TechCrunch’s visits jump up to nearly four million visitors in January while News.com’s visits only jump up slightly past two million visits in the month.
GigaOm is still running a distance third in this breakdown with a little over 425,000 visitors last month. Interestingly enough Valleywag’s following beat out Om’s following in January according to Compete with over 900,000 visitors. Although, it looks like Owen Wilson and Valleywag’s site visits are dropping sharply.
What does this all mean for Dan Farber and CNET? They have a punchers chance in the battle of breaking technology news and blogging. While the personalities on CNET’s expansive blog network haven’t built followings in tech circles like Michael Arrington and Om Malik they still have a property that drives every day web surfers looking for technology news. However, even Arrington thinks that Farber could be the right guy to turn things around for CNET. Although during the article he paints a far less rosy picture for CNET, citing Comscore numbers from last year that show a slump in visitors to News.com.
Farber has more then two decades of history in technology journalism and is credited with building the ZDnet’s blog network while serving as VP of editorial content at ZDnet. He has also become an accomplished blogger in his own right with his Between the Lines blog that he co-posted with Larry Dignan (Who now becomes editor-in-chief and chief blogger at ZDnet). Farber will bring his blog and title of chief blogger to CNET along with his experience in new media.
There may be other new gimmicks in Farber’s arsenal as well as he recently gave this insight to the Silicon Valley Watchers Tom Foremski:
“Everybody is blogging these days, there is nothing new about it. I’m looking for something different to do.”
With a fairly large commitment from the leadership team, Farber will likely push for an overhaul of News.com. He might do well to follow suit with Fast Company and build a social network into the new site. It would certainly assist News.com with retaining visitors and creating interaction once people visit the site. If he’s grown tired of blogging perhaps he follows Robert Scoble in video blogging on the site.
Two things are for sure, CNET’s News.com will change and it’s not dead, at least not yet. In fact, maybe Farber will buy the personality that is Michael Arrington and TechCrunch – As long as it doesn’t cost him $100 million.