Type of site
|Available in||English, Japanese, Belgium, Chinese, German, Dutch, French|
|Users||36 million monthly|
|Launched||April 1, 1991|
ZDNet is a business technology news website owned and operated by Red Ventures, along with TechRepublic. The brand was founded on April 1, 1991, as a general interest technology portal from Ziff Davis and evolved into an enterprise IT-focused online publication.
Beginnings: 1991 to 1995
ZDNet began as a subscription-based digital service called "ZiffNet" that offered computing information to users of CompuServe. It featured computer industry forums, events, features and searchable archives.
Initially, ZiffNet was intended to serve as a common place to find content from all Ziff-Davis print publications. As such, ZiffNet was an expansion on an earlier online service called PCMagNet for readers of PC Magazine. Launched in 1988, PCMagNet in turn was the evolution of Ziff Davis' first electronic publishing venture, a bulletin board, which launched in 1985.
On June 20, 1995, Ziff-Davis announced the consolidation of its online information services under a single name, ZD Net. The service had grown its membership to 275,000 subscribers across six platforms: CompuServe, Prodigy, AT&T Interchange, the Microsoft Network, AppleLink and eWorld.
A few months prior to the name consolidation, Ziff-Davis expanded onto the World Wide Web under the name "ZD Net." Dan Farber, former editor-in-chief of PC Week and MacWeek, was named editor-in-chief of the property. By June, the site was recording web traffic of 2.5 million pageviews per week.
Early history: 1995 to 2000
By its fifth anniversary in 1996, the collective "ZD Net" brand—now on the Web, America Online, Microsoft Network and Prodigy—counted 300,000 subscribers and was named the second-highest grossing advertising site on the web. The site also expanded overseas: initially to France, Germany and the United Kingdom; later to China, Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and India.
In 1997, the website—now the brand's flagship property—underwent another redesign that featured topical "channels" of content. It also marked the change in name from "ZD Net" to "ZDNet."
Two months prior, the company launched ZDNet News, or "ZDNN," the site's first dedicated section to original reportage. Among the journalists hired to staff the department were former Computer Shopper executive editor Charlie Cooper, San Jose Mercury News business editor Steve Hamm, PC Week Inside senior editor Bill Snyder, PC Week editor John Dodge, Computerworld editor Michael Fitzgerald and PC Week editorial director Jim Louderback.
In 1998, ZDNet launched "Inter@active Investor," or ZDII, a spin-off website for investors that offered financial news and information on technology companies.
On May 11, 1998, Ziff-Davis launched ZDTV as the first cable television channel and website to offer 24-hour programming about computing and the Internet. The venture, which was partly owned by Vulcan Enterprises, was supported with a staff of 170 and incorporated ZDNet content on its website, ZDTV.com. The channel would later become Tech TV.
By the end of 1998, ZDNet was the dominant technology brand online. It led its closest rival, CNET, by a 26 percent margin and was the 13th most popular site on the Web, reaching 8.4 million users, or 13.4 percent of all users on the Web. The site would reach an additional 600,000 users within a year.
ZDNet the company
In 1999, Ziff-Davis spun ZDNet off as a separate company and offered it as a tracking stock, ZDZ, to accompany the parent stock, ZD. An initial public offering raised $190 million, but the tracking stock was eliminated in early 2000 and revived as common stock. The new company soon acquired Updates.com, a software upgrade service. It was incorporated into the site's "Help Channel."
In 1999, ZDNet also launched "Tech Life," a network of six consumer-focused tech sites intended to attract parents ("FamilyPC"), music listeners ("ZDNet Music"), gadget enthusiasts ("ZDNet Equip"), gamers ("ZDNet GameSpot") and basic users ("Internet Life" with Yahoo).
It also launched "Computer Stew," a web-based comedy show about technology that featured John Hargrave and Jay Stevens, as well as the first ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide.
On December 30, 1999, ZDNet launched a $25 million branding campaign in response to a $100 million advertising campaign launched by rival CNET.
ZDNet's lead over the competition narrowed by 2000. Despite a record 10.7 million unique users in January, it managed only a 13 percent lead over the next competitor. By mid-2000, ZDNet had expanded to 23 countries in 14 languages on six continents.
The CNET years: 2000 to 2007
On July 19, 2000 CNET Networks (ZDNet's largest rival) announced that it would acquire ZDNet for about $1.6 billion. Some analysts thought that the merger of CNET and ZDNet would lead to redundancy in their product offerings, but research revealed that their target audiences had just 25 percent overlap.
In 2001, Ziff Davis Media Inc. reached an agreement with CNET Networks Inc. and ZDNet to regain the URLs lost in the 2000 sale of Ziff Davis Inc, to Softbank Corp.
In 2002, CNET Networks launched ZDNet sister site Builder.com, a site intended for enterprise software developers. On July 7, 2002, CNET Networks acquired Newmediary for its database of more than 30,000 enterprise IT white papers. ZDNet had integrated its services into its "Business & Technology" channel as early as January 2001.
In 2003, CNET Networks redesigned and relaunched ZDNet as an enterprise-focused publication intended to help business executives make better technology decisions.
The entire site was realigned as part of a CNET Networks B2B portfolio that included CNET News.com, Builder.com and TechRepublic.
A "Tech Update" section was created to serve as a directory of proprietary IT research (dubbed "IT Priorities"), and a new "Power Center" was implemented to prominently feature webcasts, white papers and case studies from partners. ZDNet also offered eight enterprise-targeted newsletters, as well launched its first blogs.
In 2005, ZDNet Government was launched as the brand's first industry vertical, with a mission to cater to IT professionals in the public sector. Editorial features included writing by former Utah CIO Phil Windley, TechRepublic columnist Ramon Padilla and CNET News reporter Declan McCullagh. ZDNet also launched its first original podcasts in 2005.
In 2006, ZDNet experienced another redesign that reduced its editorial focus on traditional news articles and product reviews and emphasized a growing network of expert bloggers, now totaling more than 30. The blogs covered topics such as enterprise IT, open source, Web 2.0, Google, Apple and Microsoft, and featured journalists David Berlind, Mary Jo Foley and Larry Dignan.
The CBS years: 2008 to 2020
On May 17, 2008, CBS Corporation announced that it would acquire CNET Networks for approximately $1.8 billion. The entire company would be organized under its CBS Interactive division.
In May 2010, ZDNet redesigned its site to place emphasis on the topics its blog network covers—now "Companies," "Hardware," "Software," "Mobile," "Security" and "Research"—and de-emphasize the downloads and reviews it imported from CNET post-merger.
ZDNet currently operates a network of about 50 blogs loosely aligned by its major verticals: companies, hardware, software, mobile, security and IT research. Within those general areas are blogs on gadgets, management strategy, social media, datacenters, technology law, SOA, healthcare, CRM, virtualization and sustainability.
The site still offers product reviews and software downloads, which are mostly imported from CNET. It maintains an extensive database of enterprise-focused white papers.
Awards and recognition
At the 14th Annual Computer Press Awards in 1999, ZDNet was adjudged the Best Overall Online Site.
In 2007, the Association of Online Publishers awarded ZDNet UK under the Business Website category for its contribution to innovation in incorporating Web 2.0 and community features effectively on its site.
A Japanese news publishing company called Asahi Interactive owns the ZDNet Japan website.
The ZDNet UK Live feature displays real time news updates and comments on the website and on social media including Twitter.
Other country editions include Australia, Asia, Belgium, China, Germany, Netherlands, UK and France, in their native languages.
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