DotComScoop, Netslaves Join Forces



NEW YORK– Web-economy watchers DotComScoop and Netslaves plan to combine operations in an effort to save money and expand their audiences, amid an increasingly difficult environment for independent content sites.

DotComScoop (www.dotcomscoop.com) was launched last December by Ben Silverman as a wireless news group and Web site devoted to news and gossip about Internet companies. NetSlaves (www.netslaves.com), a six-person shop that focuses on discussions and feature stories about the perils of employment at Web companies, was founded in December 1998 by Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin.

DotComScoop had about 150,000 unique visitors in May, according to Mr. Silverman, while NetSlaves gets about 80,000 unique visitors every month, according to Mr. Lessard.

DotComScoop primarily publishes rumors of imminent dot-com layoffs, shutdowns, acquisitions and mergers, while NetSlaves stories focus on the downside of working at Internet companies. “We have very similar audiences, yet they are separate. There’s not a gigantic crossover in traffic,” Mr. Silverman said.

Mr. Silverman declined to specify DotComScoop’s revenue, while Netslaves’ revenue is minimal and “not worth mentioning,” according to Mr. Lessard. “We haven’t been making a whole hell of a lot of money.”

DotComScoop headlines will begin appearing on the Netslaves site this week, and the two sites are already working to merge back-end operations. Later this year, they will relaunch as a combined site with a new name. The new site will focus less on the dot-com horror stories both sites specialize in, and will function more as a “site by and for technology workers, that spans everything from news to community to analysis,” according to Mr. Lessard.

Mr. Silverman, Mr. Lessard, and Mr. Baldwin will be partners in the new venture.

The merger comes as the online and offline advertising slump — as well as the broader slowdown in the U.S. economy — has laid waste to numerous online publishers, most recently Automatic Media’s Suck and Feed online magazines, which largely shut down operations last week as it looks for additional funding or a buyer.

By merging, DotComScoop and Netslaves say they will save on infrastructure and technology expenses. Moreover, Mr. Lessard believes the demise of sites like Suck and Feed have created an opportunity for NetSlaves and DotComScoop. “We see what’s happening as a great opportunity for people like ourselves,” he said. “It’s the do-it-yourself, go-cart Web sites who will step up and make an impact on people.”

Mr. Silverman is looking at other ways to wring cash out of Internet industry gossip. Later this month, Mr. Silverman plans to launch apremium site, ExecutivesCorner.com, in partnership with closely held StreetSideInvestor (www.streetsideinvestor.com), a three-person operation in Bloomington, Ind. The subscription-only publication will be targeted to investors and analysts, Mr. Silverman says.

The site, which will be updated weekly, will cost $260 for one year. ExecutivesCorner.com will provide interviews with Internet executives as well as some DotComScoop-style dirt, Mr. Silverman said.

“We both saw that we had assets in the information that we were putting out to the public,” he said.

There are some indications that people are willing to pay for unfiltered access to industry gossip. Philip Kaplan, who launched and operates dot-com deathpool F____dcompany.com, announced in March that he would charge $75 a month for a subscription to the full database of tipsand message-board archives on the site. So far, he has signed up about 1,200 subscribers, according to a merchant statement he provided. DotComScoop’s Mr. Silverman is hoping for about 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year.