Last week I caught up with Stephen Howard-Sarin (VP of CNET Networks Business) and Dan Farber (VP of Editorial, CNET Networks and Editor in Chief, ZDNet). These are a couple of very smart guys, true veterans of the publishing business. I got to know Dan a little bit when we launched Sphere this past May. Since then, I’ve solicited his input on a number of things we’re doing or thinking about doing at Sphere – he’s the type of partner that is always accessible and his input always insightful.
When we launched the Sphere Contextual Widget in November, ZDNet agreed to join our launch group. That, like our relationship with TIME.com yesterday, was a major coup for us. ZDNet is an elite publisher. Furthermore, they’ve been honing their blog strategy for over three years, amazing when you think about how ahead of the game they were in their recognition of the importance of blogging. Today, they have over 40 blogs in the ZDNet Network, all offering the Sphere Contextual Widget to their readers.
Overall, we’re very pleased with how well the Contextual Widget is working in ZDNet blogs. It adds an important feature to the reader experience (COLLECTIVELY, THIS IS OUR PRIMARY GOAL) by enabling readers to connect with the larger conversation happening in the blogosphere while also showcasing additional ZDNet articles. From a business model perspective, it also generates additional page-views for ZDNet in addition to adding to reader experience on their site. That’s a win-win for everyone and is the primary reason more and more publishers and micro-publishers are adopting the Contextual Widget in their sites (several announcements to come beginning of 2007). I also had another key take-away from our conversation. Each ZDNet Contextual Widget has a Recommended Blogs section that can be found in the bottom left quadrant. Recommended Blogs from ZDNet is very valuable for creating a network effect. ZDNet currently points to their own blogs but is open to establishing relationships with other micro-publishers deploying the Contextual Widget by exchanging links. This is a very open perspective and I believe the right perspective for engaging with the blogosphere. This hasn’t happened yet but it will be fun to see how it evolves – in the meantime, please check out the ZDNet blogs and let us know which blogs you’d like to see them link to.