Casting a Wider CNET

I’m so glad that Rafat, Staci and the PaidContent gang are at the NCTA Cable Show. Hey, where else would they be other than with the likes of Parsons, Dauman, Roberts, Chernin, and others too glorious to mention? There are certainly less pleasant places to hang than at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. Life is good.

Along with the pundits waxing on the current cacophonous and convulsive cable content climate, I was taken by Staci’s chat with CNET’s CEO Neil Ashe. We all know CNET (not to be confused with its IT-centric sibling ZDNet) as that online repository of all things digital — from product reviews to tech news etc. But wait, hold your hard drives! Refresh.

CNET is broadening its horizons. According to Staci, Ashe’s mission is to be “an interactive media company, not the tech publisher it once was.” Case in point: the just-announced multi-year deal with NBCU-News Corp’s Newsite Network to distribute and provide content (e.g., “thousands of video clips”) . CNET already has a pact to distribute CBS Video. “For CNET, it highlights the transition from tech publishing to passion publishing with sites aimed at particular niches.”

To make his point, Ashe relayed a user comment: “I was never really a CNET user but I’m using Bnet and Chow all the time.” Both are recent launches. Ashe: “We’ll continue to demonstrate our ability to build these brands for different target markets.” Bnet for business, Chow for food, you get the picture.

Long story short, mass market PR is dying on the vine. Niche content sites for every taste are flourishing. No longer will PR pros be measured by the number of media impressions they generate. It’s the quality (and responsiveness) of the audience exposed to and consuming the fruits of our labor that will (and should) serve as the new barometer for our effectiveness as a communications discipline.