E-tailing sites up; content sites down

Shopping Web sites -- especially online toy and electronics retailers and even some traditional stores -- showed big gains in visitors during November, according to a U.S.

Shopping Web sites -- especially online toy and electronics retailers and even some traditional stores -- showed big gains in visitors during November, according to a U.S. survey published Tuesday.

The monthly study by market research group Media Metrix Inc. (Nasdaq: MMXI) of home and work Internet use found top electronic commerce sites growing 17 percent in terms of users amid seasonal strength heading into the holiday shopping period, while content-supported networks held steady or slipped.

eToys Inc.'s (Nasdaq: ETYS) site grew 93 percent to an estimated 4.9 million potential shoppers, Toys "R" Us Inc.'s (NYSE: TOY) site grew 277 percent to 4.8 million and Consolidated Stores Corp.'s KBkids.com was up 140 percent to 2.8 million monthly visitors.

Meanwhile, Internet media networks such as Lycos Inc. (Nasdaq: LCOS), Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) and Time Warner Online (Nasdaq: TWX) saw visitors to their sites dip slightly during November.

Content sites 'flat'
The biggest loser among top Web networks was CNet Inc. (Nasdaq: CNET), a computer news and shopping site, which saw traffic drop 2 percent during November, despite heavy investments in a $100 million brand advertising campaign under way since summer. Shares of CNet fell $4 to $70 on the Nasdaq stock market.

"The content-supported sites were basically flat month-over-month and have been generally over the past few months,'' Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Lise Buyer said in a research note to clients, of the Media Metrix data.

"The commerce-supported sites were much stronger in November over October and have been generally stronger since the summer,'' she noted.

The Web sites of traditional retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sears, Roebuck and Co. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. joined the ranks of the top 15 fastest gainers in terms of traffic in November, Media Metrix said.

The exceptions to this pattern included online greeting card company Bluemountainarts.com, which showed seasonal strength heading into the holidays. Blue Mountain has agreed to be acquired by Excite@Home, which saw its stock gain 1 to 47-1/4 on Nasdaq.

Also, the biggest gainer was About.com (Nasdaq: MINE), which jumped 26 percent to 11 million visitors. The site offers human-guided navigation of the Web in contrast to automated search systems. Shares of About.com jumped 4-1/4 to 71 on Nasdaq.

Top retailers' shares slip
In spite of the new data showing a surge in traffic during November, shares of many of the top Internet retailers continued to slide.

eToys lost another 2 11/16 to 32 1/8, continuing its steady decline from around 70 in late November, while top Web retailer Amazon Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) was off 1/2 at 96 1/2. Electronics retailer Cyberian Outpost (Nasdaq: COOL) lost 13/32 to 9 17/32.