June 14, 2006 9:01 PM PDT
New Netscape.com focuses on news
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Top anchor recommendations late Wednesday included an article from the BBC about poor working conditions in Chinese factories where Apple iPods are made, a story from TMZ.com about TV star Jenna Elfman getting mad at a man wearing a shirt mocking Scientology, and an item titled "Rumsfeld expells US media from Guantanamo" on Rawstory.com.
Since AOL acquired it in 1998, Netscape has undergone many facelifts. AOL turned the Netscape portal--dubbed NetCenter--into a hub for showcasing Web sites owned by AOL parent company Time Warner.
AOL tried different things with the Netscape brand and operations, including launching Netbusiness, a site aimed at small businesses, and later a Netbusiness online magazine. Netscape also launched an alliance with Sun Microsystems to merge Internet products and services under a brand called iPlanet and launched Netscape ISP, a discount Internet service.
AOL itself has been revamped numerous times following its merger with Time Warner in 2000, most recently last year with the launch of a new AOL.com.
Netscape helped make the Internet a household name with its Netscape Navigator browser software, launched in 1994. The company had a spectacular debut on the stock market in 1995, but it struggled to keep a dominant share of the browser market in the face of competition from Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
A 2003 settlement between Microsoft and AOL, under which AOL signed a seven-year contract to use Internet Explorer in its flagship service, further eroded the market share and profile of the Netscape browser.
Netscape needed to be "rejuvenated," said David Card, an analyst at JupiterResearch. But he wondered whether the strategy would appeal to Netscape's roughly 11 million monthly viewers who are more mainstream than hard-core news junkies.
"It's (becoming) a collection of news and information channels that tries to leverage the audience itself through commentary like a Slashdot, blog or message board, blended with a light dusting of editorial," Card said. "They're trying to make this into a media property that appeals to a mainstream audience. That's a mighty steep mountain."
Keefer of CJR Daily also expressed doubts as to whether Netscape readers would want deeper editorial content than mere aggregation.
"I don't know if the market for media criticism is totally saturated yet," Keefer said. "People are looking for that filter, not necessarily looking for something that expands on the news, but something that shrinks it and makes it shorter, like Google News."
Even Calacanis said he couldn't predict a surefire payoff.
"I would be lying if I told exactly what this meta-journalism means and where it is going," Calacanis said. "I just know it is necessary and interesting...How do we take the search for the truth to the next level? If you do both (reader and editor participation) you get the best result."
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