Simon Says: Buy Me!

CNET announced Thursday that it would plunk down 11.3 million shares of stock - a whopping $700 million or so - to buy the price-comparison site mySimon. To reflect its expansion beyond the tech sector, CNET will also change its name to CNET Networks.

Well, it beats myCNET.

The two companies were giddy over the deal, and analysts couldn't find much to complain about. CNET's product information base will expand to include about 150 more categories and almost 1500 new merchants. MySimon, a shopping bot focusing mainly on product and pricing information, will get CNET's in-house and user-submitted product reviews.

The story on its parent company's acquisition was pretty much a press release, featuring soundbites like "leverage our core infrastructure" from chief executive Halsey Minor. Other outlets delved a bit deeper, mostly with speculation about what the deal means. The Wall Street Journal saw CNET scrambling to join the "broader consumer market," a sector that gave it trouble in the days of its (now sold) portal Snap. The Washington Post's Leslie Walker thought the purchase signaled "media companies continuing to seek their share of the e-commerce pie." Walker also noted that in December, CNET purchased GDT, "a Swiss company that provides computer product information that will be folded into CNET's and MySimon's shopping guides." The San Jose Mercury News talked to an analyst who said the deal could mean the beginning of a consolidation in the overpopulated sector of shopping services.

Much was made of CNET's post-buy stock price, which fell a non-whopping $0.50 to $62.19. Not much of an issue, unless you're a day trader. Perhaps editorial integrity might have been a better angle for outlets looking to balance Halsey Minor's exuberance. For example, mySimon gives "preferential treatment to those e-retailers who pay to advertise their name or services - such as free shipping - on the mySimon site," wrote AP reporter Rachel Beck. One wonders if mySimon's new editorial content will be trusted, and if CNET's product reviews will lose some of their objectivity when placed alongside mySimon's advertiser-friendly price listings.

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