Netly News goes quietly into the night

The Netly News died a quiet death Thursday, the victim of poor financial performance.The Netly News, a three-year old online news publication published on Time-Warner Inc.

The Netly News died a quiet death Thursday, the victim of poor financial performance.

The Netly News, a three-year old online news publication published on Time-Warner Inc.'s Pathfinder , covered politics and culture in an irreverent style targeted at tech industry insiders.

Visitors to the Netly News Thursday found themselves instead at Time Digital Daily. Janice Castro, editor of Time.com, said this was an expanded version of the Netly News, targeting a broader audience in the name of the bottom line. Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) will officially launch the new site at next week's Fall Internet World trade show, in New York.

"We wanted to do something more ambitious," Castro said. She added that the new site, which seems in effect to combine Time Daily and the Netly News, will try to bring a bigger audience and general interest technology.

One analyst said that the move was probably inevitable.

"Pathfinder is all about established brands and combining established brands. Netly News was the lowly no-named creature out there," said Dominique Paul Noth, an industry analyst based in Milwaukee. "Netly News without a real print base is a new brand, and I never saw any promotional push behind it."

Noth said it also suffered from too much competition, and an expanded focus might help it.

"There has to be a falling off in this environment. There are too many sites covering the same kinds of news in the same fashion."

The new Time Digital has been in the works for months, and will draw content and staff from its Time Digital magazine, which is printed 8-10 times per year.

The new focus
While Netly's edgy news and commentary will still have a presence, more news content will be added about personal technology gadgets and gaming, to attract more mainstream technology consumers.

Despite the closing of Netly News, lay-offs aren't expected. Instead, Web producers and other employees will be shifted to other parts of Time-Warner's online businesses. A full-time producer in Washington will lose his job, but Castro expects he will be re-assigned within the company.

In the meantime, Netly's co-founders have moved on: former editor Josh Quittner has gone back to Time magazine, though he remains Pathfinder's tech guru and still contributes a column to the new site. Noah Robischon, the other founder, left for Brillscontent.com in March.

Three rough years
While Netly attracted a niche following of techie insiders since its start in November 1995, it wasn't able to draw enough traffic to compete with other tech news sites.

In February, Quittner told one Web publication that traffic was below 100,000 visitors per week, less than half what it would need to stay alive.

"That's too bad (about Netly's passing), because it was one of the few original things Pathfinder was doing," said industry analyst Vin Crosbie, based in Greenwich, Conn. "Hardly anybody is doing original content. But The Netly News had original stories."

Martha L. Stone teaches New Media & Technology at Roosevelt University in Chicago and is a frequent contributer to ZDNN.