It's been nearly two years since CNET
On the bright side, the domain was going to a company that understood the Internet and appreciated its viral splendor. On the dimmer side, Vivendi was going to wipe its servers clean and CNET would have to start from scratch. Things were testy at first. Instead of rebuilding the artist community at MP3.com, CNET decided to use it as a legal downloading portal for established artists. Taking advantage of the type-in traffic and the many artist links still sending traffic to MP3.com, it was the simplest plan to monetize its new domain name.
However, a company that prides itself on uniting techies at News.com, consumer gadgetry buffs at CNET.com, software developers at Download.com, and diehard gamers at Gamespot wasn't about to alienate the musicians. They have fans. They have families. They have really loud amplifiers.
So CNET rolled out a new stage at Music.Download.com. There, artists have been able to upload a limited number of tracks and offer them as free downloads. While artists are also given some space to let the world know a little more about their music, the site is still barren compared with the original features-rich MP3.com site, and many of the former artists haven't made the migration.
Things got a whole lot better earlier this month, when CNET launched music streams -- and shorter samples -- of the artist tracks. Yes, streaming flies in the face of the Download.com moniker, but it was an essential addition. Consumers have little reason to download an unfamiliar track in its entirety. Now they have the ability to stream away as they surf through the site.
It's a major improvement for CNET's music site, though the transformation has been gradual. Two summers ago, when Vivendi appeared as if it was going to be unloading MP3.com, I made a wish list of suitors -- cash-rich, audience-rich places like Yahoo!
All three of those companies have gone on to either launch music stores or expand their digital-music offerings. Having the original MP3.com in their tech-savvy hands could have been a beautiful thing.
Then again, CNET gets things right in the end. It doesn't rush things. It sat on the lucrative TV.com domain for years, using it to direct users to television set reviews on CNET.com. Then it acquired TVTome, and TV.com eventually developed a more magnetic personality.
What will the future for digital music hold? What would you like to see CNET do with its musical turf? I'll be back on Tuesday with some more thoughts -- including some of yours. Yes, that's right, drop me a line and let me know what you think. We'll see what we can drum up.
A look behind the music at CNET:
- CNET had some rocking plans for MP3.com when it first acquired the domain.
- Saving MP3.com seemed essential two summers ago.
- I interviewed CEO Shelby Bonnie earlier this year.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of CNET, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.