Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

CNET’s Debut at CBS: Pretty Good

CBS has had plenty of bad news lately–a tanking ad market, a huge write-down, Sumner Redstone’s worrisome debt problems–but it got to offer at least one piece of good news in its quarterly earnings report this morning. CNET, the tech-focused Web publisher it bought this summer for $1.8 billion, turned in a decent performance.

CBS’s Interactive division, run by M&A maven Quincy Smith (pictured), posted revenues of $140.7 million, up from $35.9 million last year. That year-to-year comparison doesn’t mean much, since the CNET numbers aren’t included in the 2007 numbers. But CBS (CBS) says that if CNET had been around last year, the division would be recording a six percent increase in revenue, pushed up by a 12 percent increase in display ads.

Back in the good ol’ days, like earlier this year, a big Web publisher would be flayed for posting six percent revenue increases. And in fact, that’s just what happened to CNET’s old managers, who were hounded by a group of activist investors for delivering single-digit growth while the rest of the Web was booming.

But given the cratering economy, six percent doesn’t look that crappy, especially compared to the results posted by the likes of Time Warner’s AOL (TWX) and Yahoo (YHOO). And the display ad boost should be heartening for CBS, which would very much like to be able to tell investors that it has a growth engine.

Next up: Getting Interactive to contribute a profit. It recorded an operating loss of $15.2 million this quarter.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik