But far from a vote of no-confidence in the possibilities of the digital frontier, observers said the moves underscore how far the Internet has advanced toward becoming a news and information source comparable to mainstream media such as television, print and radio.
Matt Drudge -- the Internet gossip columnist, who broke the Clinton-Lewinsky story when Newsweek preferred not to -- landed a weekly celebrity news show with the Fox News Channel, Daily Variety reported Friday.
On the same day, Noah Robischon, co-founder of Time Warner's (TWX) news commentary site The Netly News, considered a pioneering effort at original Internet reporting, ended his tenure as the site's editor in favor of a reporting job with a non-virtual magazine.
Drudge inks Fox News pact
The two journalists work in very different ends of the news spectrum, but analysts said both events show how much the Net has matured.
"It just shows you the power of the Internet as a news distribution vehicle," said Ben De La Cruz, a managing editor with Cowles/Simba Information, Stamford, Conn. "I mean, Matt Drudge would be a nobody if it weren't for the Internet, but he's able to make a name for himself because of this medium."
The 31-year-old Drudge, who told Variety he will continue running the Report, could begin dishing up celebrity rumors and news by next spring. The columnist has come under fire for refusing to source stories. He is currently being sued for $30 million for writing that Clinton adviser Sid Blumenthal beat his wife.
News democracy and the Web
"The Internet is making the news business much more democratic," said analyst Chris Charron with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "Certainly the Clinton-Lewinsky affair showed that the news 'reporters' like Matt Drudge can play an important role in the breaking and reporting of news."
Drudge could not be reached for comment.
Robischon, who had been with the Netly News since its founding nearly three years ago, will take a job as a reporter with Steven Brill's Content magazine, which bills itself as "the consumer guide to the information age." The magazine will launch in June.
Josh Quittner, Netly co-founder and news director for Time Inc. New Media, said the site will continue in a revised form in the wake of Robischon's departure.
"The reality is, when we started Netly three years ago, we could cover everything, from tech news to digital culture. Now there's many Web sites, so it makes sense to refocus, bite off a piece we can chew more effectively," Quittner said.
The credibility factor
While the loss of its co-founding editor doesn't necessarily bode well for Netly, analysts said traditional media outlets are taking the Internet seriously.
"I think you look at deals like this as lending a certain credibility to Internet content," said Patrick Keane with Jupiter Communications in New York.
Netly News brings in about 100,000 page views per week, compared with 115,000 per day for parent site Time Daily. Robischon could not be reached for comment.
While observers said big, established media will naturally draw talent with their greater stability and heftier paychecks, they expect online media to create careers as attractive as any in the world of old media.
"It will be a news career in the future," said Forrester's Charron. "The Internet is playing just as important a role at breaking news stories as traditional news outlets. It has many advantages over traditional news reporting ... especially for big events that are breaking in real time."