CNET Takes in Urban Baby

CNET has acquired parenting site UrbanBaby to expand into a new lifestyle category. Meanwhile, plans are afoot to redesign the company’s previously-acquired lifestyle properties.

Executives said UrbanBaby will continue to serve its audience after the acquisition. CNET will likely make gradual changes and may eventually redesign. In the immediate future, the new parent company plans to expand coverage to additional markets and enhance the already well-established community aspects of the parenting Web site. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“We look at [UrbanBaby] and think it’s a great brand,” said CNET corporate VP Martin Green. “We will definitely be working on redoing the community message board software and expanding the newsletter, which is predominantly New York, into other U.S. cities.”

UrbanBaby currently serves seven U.S. markets including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Plans for an additional 19 cities, including international cities like London, were listed on the site prior to the acquisition announcement.

The publisher expects to attract endemic advertisers to the site. It also plans to bring in financial, consumer package goods (CPG) and auto manufacturers who want to reach families at that particular life stage, Green said. It will bring in advertisers that want to “reach the family through the decision maker for many purchases,” Green said. “You end up spending a lot of money as a new parent, and the mom drives purchase decisions.”

Prior to acquisition the site had sponsorship deals with stroller manufacturer Bugaboo and stroller and furniture maker Stokke. UrbanBaby also has a Web-based shop with products from Tiny Prints, Mama Mio, Dwell and Liz Lange maternity.

UrbanBaby established itself in 1999 as a go-to guide for expecting and new parents in metropolitan areas. It’s most well-known for its community message boards, but it also includes editorial sections like expecting, gear, play, health, care and shop. A daily newsletter highlights products and topics of note to young parents. The site also hosts classifieds and other points of interest.

CNET also plans to re-launch two properties it previously acquired and will now merge. The company plans to combine food connoisseur magazine Chow and similarly named foodie community site Chowhound.com. Previous subscribers to Chow and members of ChowHound will be given membership during the public beta period. The site will open to a wider audience later in September. The month-long “bake period” is akin to the opening of a restaurant, according to Green. It will also give existing members an opportunity to get used to the new tools and give exclusivity to what Green called an “insanely passionate audience.”

Users aren’t the only ones getting an exclusive introductory period. At launch CNET expects to have a charter sponsor program that will run for about six months. “We want to be pretty exclusive about the launch,” Green said.

Advertisers are expected to be from the CPG, alcoholic beverages, food-related appliance, auto and financial services categories.

One acquired property that evaded any major redesign for about two years is Webshots which CNET bought in 2004. That’s changing now, in response, the company said, to user feedback about the photo sharing site. The site’s members will have the option to view the new or classic site throughout the month of August, but all users are expected to be migrated to the new look by September. Elements of the site include a streamlined look; enhanced navigation; 10 different content categories; a new color palette and the ability to share content between the site and personal Web sites, including blogs.

In its new incarnation, Webshots will be an open-sharing platform. Green said users can post a photo to Webshots and mirror it on a blog. Additionally, photos posted on a user’s blog can also be picked up by Webshots. The site’s development team built widgets to make the functionality possible.

Later in September the photo-sharing site will also enable video so users can post photos and film adjacently.

“There is no other big player in the photo community space that allows you to put videos and photos together in an album and send it to people,” said Green.

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