Internet.com buys up EarthWeb sites

100 jobs down virtual plughole

Internet.com has agreed to buy fellow New York dotcom EarthWeb's assorted collection of tech content Web sites.

The online publishing house will take 14 Web sites, including Earthweb.com, which contains IT job ads and technology news, CodeGuru, Sysopt, and 18 email newsletters. The financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but we guess it's a steal - certainly a whole heap less than the cash Earthweb flashed in assembling its Web content business in the first place.

EarthWeb is to lay off 100 staff, around a third of its workforce, and shut several offices as part of the deal. It will also licence some content from the sites and newsletters being sold.

EarthWeb said it will take a charge of between $42 million and $47 million in the fourth quarter as a result of the move,and plans to concentrate on its IT career sites, such as Dice.com and Measureup.com, and change its name. It expects its career services business to account for 73 per cent of revenues in the quarter.

In March this year, financial news mag Barrons claimed EarthWeb was one of 51 dotcoms on the verge of running out of cash - the New York outfit denied the claim.

Drew Cullen writes Internet.com operates a variation of the controlled circulation model, but the the downside - in its case - is brand incoherence. The company has an almost fetishistic attachment to narrowcasting. But the Internet.com publishing identity is weak.

Internet.com has a gazillion and one (often bought) Web sites and (mostly developed inhouse) email newsletters aimed at the tech space And Earthweb titles sit nicely with Internet.com's existing specialities of Internet news, Web development stuff, Linux sites and Windows-oriented sites. The latter includes a rather good site in Windrivers, a new buy (from Service911.com). Internet.com also owns SharkyExtreme.

Narrowcasting is a good way of earning more money out of non-paying readers - it's a pretty safe bet that anyone reading one of Internet.com's ASP titles will be interested in the subject matter, and that ASP advertisers will know that their money is less likely to go to waste when spent with such a publication.

But what a dull way to run an Internet publishing business. ®

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