In a move that's probably long overdue, CNET Networks
Webshots has been a lively place to share digital snapshots over the years. Visitors can now browse through 419 million different photographs. However, amid fierce competition, daily page views have dipped at Webshots since last year. Facebook has won over the college crowd; News Corp.'s
Webshots wasn't doing anything wrong, but its rivals were doing everything right. Today's makeover does plenty of little things. Free registered users now have more storage capacity. The image quality has been enhanced. Searches now spit back more thumbnail previews per page. Navigation is easier, with more channels to scour, and the actual design is more robust.
However, the most intriguing upgrade is the one that's coming -- video. In an interview last summer, CNET CEO Shelby Bonnie indicated that the company was turning to video as a content source at many of its sites. More than two-thirds of CNET site visitors had speedy broadband connections, and the company had served up 100 million video streams in the second quarter of 2005.
CNET's compelling video content helps provide depth to product and video-game reviews. It also grants the company some editorial flexibility to be sharp and edgy; earlier this month, The Buzz Report's crew went to a San Francisco multiplex for the midnight screening of Snakes on a Plane.
By turning over the content-creation process to its visitors, CNET is hoping to tap into the same vein that has seen YouTube explode as this year's addictive website. Webshots is unlikely to make a material dent in YouTube in the near term. Dot-com giants like Google
It would be naive to expect CNET to fare substantially better, even though it does have the advantage of already being an established portal for camera-wielding shutterbugs. Any success here would likely just stir up more buyout speculation as CNET battles the demons of potential accounting irregularities.
CNET still generated a 14% gain in its most recent quarterly revenues, despite the slide in Webshots traffic. That's a testament to the strength of the rest of its active websites, which are easier to monetize than Webshots. It also sets up an ideal foundation if video on Webshots takes off.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been known to backdate a birthday present or two after a momentary lapse -- but nothing worse. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.