Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CNET Content Solutions (and Me)

You probably know CNET, but do you know CNET Content Solutions? Indirectly, you do, because CNET Content Solutions’ content appears not only on CNET but also on CDW, Dell, Insight, MSN Shopping, Yahoo! Shopping, and hundreds of other sites around the world.

CNET Content Solutions’ content is product data: detailed specs, images, descriptions, and related-product links. This is the stuff you see on product pages and comparisons all over the Web. Without it, e-commerce sites would be empty shells.

CNET Content Solutions database comprises more than 3 million computer and consumer-electronics products in 35 markets and 15 languages. If you’re an e-commerce site, having manufacturers spray this information at you from all sides is not an answer. The scale of data is a problem, but the show-stopper is rampant inconsistency in the content provided, specs included/omitted, and terminology used. It’s the e-commerce Tower of Babel.

And thus the opportunity for a win-win: CNET Content Solutions does the heavy lifting of acquiring, normalizing, and internationalizing a world’s worth of product data; each customer pays a small fraction of the total cost to get the full benefit.

Put another way, in an era of infinite shelf space, CNET Content Solutions allows sites to keep the cost of merchandising that space under control.

I entered the picture at the end of 2004, when CNET acquired a company I co-founded, ExactChoice. We specialized in creating software applications that did analytics and mining of complex product data. Now, as CNET Content Solutions’ Analytic Products Group, we have the largest product-data operation in the world as our foundation.

The Web site has carried forward ExactChoice’s showcase application, a personalized computer recommender. Meanwhile, as VP of Analytic Products for CNET Content Solutions, I am in charge of defining and executing products that add value to the existing database of detailed product information. Intelligent Cross-Sell is the first such product.

[This post is a revision of a post from September 18, 2005, “CNET Channel and Me.” In late 2008, CNET Channel changed its name to CNET Content Solutions.]

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