A subtle change at Web18, which holds some of Network18’s Internet and Mobile businesses: CricketNext, the Cricket website it acquired in 2006, and tried to build as a separate brand competing with ESPNCricinfo, has been amalgamated into its channel specific website IBNLive.com (hat tip: Surinder Singh). Where it was once at CricketNext.com it now appears to be IBNLive CricketNext, hosted at IBNLive.in.com/cricketnext. Their social media presence, including the Twitter account, still points to the old URL.
CricketNext was a key component of Web18’s portal launching frenzy – eying an IPO, over a three year period, the company launched/invested in several individual websites: EasyMF.com, cricketnext.com, compareindia.com, homeshop18.com, bookmyshow.com, josh18.com, awaaz karobar, IBN Khabar, buzz18.com, poweryourtrade.com, indiwo.com, tech2.com, biztech2.com, indiaearnings.com, storeguru.com, blish.in.com, and in.com. Many of these portals were amalgamated into In.com. In my opinion, it was a confused rollout, with the company sometimes running multiple portals for the same segment simultaneously – HomeShop18 and StoreGuru, IBNKhabar and Josh18, IBNLive covered tech, but Web18 also ran Tech2 and BizTech2.
Buzz18, Josh18 and StoreGuru were integrated into In.com, Indiwo and Blish were shuttered.
Even now, Network18 runs two English news sites (FirstPost.com and IBNLive) and three local information businesses (Burrp, AskMe, Yellowpages.co.in). IBNLive has tech, but Web18 also runs Tech2 and BizTech2.
The problem for Web18 is that it has always been (it appears to me, from the outside) one of convergence between web and TV: it appears to have been split between the challenges of building out properties attached to the TV Channels, and properties that are standalone web properties. It also changed tactics, when it first built out several verticals, thinking that each could be built into a brand and monetized independently, and then when things didn’t scale, began integrating everything into its horizontals. Even now, it is left with multiple horizontals, with areas of overlap.
What should Web18 do?
I think FirstPost has developed into a great, recognizable brand, and it’s time that IBNLive was replaced by FirstPost, with an integration with TV.
Burrp, AskMe and Yellowpages.co.in need to be consolidated into a single brand (AskMe) and build it out in a segmented manner; the company will have to choose between the Burrp model (reviews), and the yellow-pages-directory model of AskMe.
I still do think separate verticals can be built out for Tech and Cricket because they are massive categories, but that entirely depends on management bandwidth. If there is management bandwidth,then these should be moved out of FirstPost. However, you can’t throw 16 balls in the air and catch them all.
In all of this, MoneyControl.com, Web18’s primary source of revenues, remains an independent, strong business and brand, under which the financial brands should be consolidated.
What remains? In.com. What to do with In.com? I don’t know. You tell me. How much will it sell for?
P.s.: Please bear in mind that I don’t know what I’m doing, and perhaps this big media play is beyond my comprehension.