Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

CNET Boss Joe Gillespie Has Left the Building

Joe Gillespie, the CBS executive who oversaw the company’s CNET and CBS sites, has left the company amid a reorg.

Gillespie’s old unit, the CBS Interactive News Group, has been folded into a group with the company’s “business brands,” including BNET and MoneyWatch. Greg Mason, who was running the business group, now oversees the whole thing.

This one is literally old news, since it was announced internally all the way back on Jan. 26. But as you may recall, tech and business outlets were under a government mandate that week not to write about anything that wasn’t related to what we then called the Apple (AAPL) tablet. (Remember those days?)

The move would be bigger news if it augured a bigger shake-up at CBS’s digital side, especially since CBS Interactive head Quincy Smith has finally left the company to open up his own M&A shop. But CBS spokeswoman Sarah Cain says that’s not the case.

In a few hours, we’ll get a better sense of how CNET has performed for CBS (CBS) since the company acquired it in a $1.8 billion deal in 2008. CBS is set to announce Q4 earnings shortly, and estimates range widely depending on which analyst you listen to. Anthony DiClemente of Barclays Capital, for instance, thinks Interactive revenue will increase 10 percent, while the unit’s earnings will decrease by 8.8 percent; the consensus calls for an increase of 31 percent and a 36.2 percent drop respectively.

Meanwhile, for completists: Here’s Interactive boss Neil Ashe’s announcement explaining Gillespie’s move and the subsequent changes.

From: Neil Ashe
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 1:15 PM
Subject: Tech, News & Business Announcement


We begin 2010 in an exciting position. Our brands are growing, and we continue to attract huge audiences and many of the world’s largest advertisers. As we look to the future, our focus remains on creating great content and experiences for our users, and great marketing solutions for our customers.

To that end, we are making changes today that streamline our division by bringing two business units into one. Tech & News and Business will now operate as a single business unit led by Greg Mason. Dave Morris will directly manage the sales organization for this new business unit while remaining in his role as Chief Client Officer for CBS Interactive. Joe Gillespie will work closely with me, Greg and Dave on making this transition a success. He’ll be with us until the end of March, at which time he has decided to leave the company to pursue new opportunities and his other interests, including a new appointment to the board of

The creation of this new business unit will let us capitalize on the combined power of some of our biggest and most influential brands including CNET,, CBS MoneyWatch, BNET, ZDNet and TechRepublic. It will also allow us to create better alignment between properties like CBS MoneyWatch and where there are natural synergies between the content and audiences. This is good for CBS Interactive, as well as CBS as a whole.

For our marketing partners, this change helps simplify how clients work with us.  Individually, each business unit has seen great success cross-pollinating content and selling programs. Combined, we have the ability to do even more of these types of programs, but even faster and on a much larger scale. Dave will work closely with the sales team to create programs that take advantage of the combined power of these leading brands.  And of course, Dave will continue to be our primary representative in the marketplace for CBS Interactive as a whole.

Those of you that have worked with Greg know that he has an incredible track record of building and operating world-class brands, and repeatedly transforming businesses into success stories. He joined CNET Networks in 2000 and was instrumental in rebuilding our business after the bubble burst. He helped lead the charge to launch the Messaging Plus ad units in 2001, which put CNET Networks on the map in terms of industry leadership and innovation. From 2004-2007 Greg led CNET Content Solutions, which he transformed into one of our fastest growing and most consistently profitable businesses. Since 2007, Greg has been at the helm of our business portfolio, during which time he has launched two important new brands–BNET and CBS MoneyWatch, as well as led the continued success of our storied IT brands–ZDNet and TechRepublic.

Greg’s unique ability to manage large businesses, as well as infuse them with his entrepreneurial spirit will serve this new team well as we build upon our success and look to the future.

During his 6 years at CNET Networks and CBS Interactive, Joe has been a driving force in the continued success of CNET.  Under his leadership, CNET is recognized today as the #1 tech media brand in the world, and became a site worthy of the legacy of CBS News. In 2008, Joe architected the complete relaunch of CNET, which has resulted in record traffic growth ever since. The site recently eclipsed 100 million users for 3 consecutive months (an all-time record). Early on, Joe initiated the use of video across the site, taking CNET beyond just product reviews and making it the definitive resource for people who love technology and want to get the most out of it. This vision also included broadening the coverage model with new content additions like Car Tech and Crave.

At, Joe led a major site redesign, which has reinvigorated the site, driving growth and attracting new advertisers with a renewed focus on photos and original content. Since its debut in mid-June, unique users are up 22%, page views are up 12% and video streams are up 28%. Joe and his team were also instrumental in helping Katie Couric launch her online presence, executing her Campaign and Inauguration webcasts, and most recently the @KatieCouric webcast.

In addition to being a good friend, Joe has been an invaluable member of my management team and I want to thank him for all his contributions over the years. Please join me in wishing him all the best in his new endeavors.

I’m excited about the possibilities this new business unit creates for us. We’ve got great leaders in Greg and Dave, and world class brands with exciting opportunities in front of them. I know that this new, combined team will achieve great success and I look forward to a prosperous 2010 with the entire CBS Interactive team.

Best, NA

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald