CBS buys Dotspotter; that's no idle gossip

Site's engineers key to acquisition

At first glance, CBS' acquisition Thursday of 10-month-old gossip site Dotspotter looks to be the case of yet another big media company jumping into the crowded field of celebrity news sites; think AOL with TMZ or Yahoo with OMG.

But CBS Interactive president Quincy Smith said that the investment is more akin to the strategies of Cisco and Google in that its value is not the property itself but Dotspotter's "core team" of engineers, led by former Yahoo vp Anthony Soohoo.

"I'm not buying this thinking (that) we're giving TMZ a run for their money," Smith said. "There's no way we can compete with that."

Smith would not comment on the reported $10 million price tag, saying only that the investment was an "immaterial, nondisclosed amount."

Added traffic to CBS' Web network would, of course, be a bonus, Smith said. But with only 350,000 unique visitors in September, according to Compete, Dotspotter ranks far behind the millions that the likes of TMZ, OMG and attract.

The promise Smith sees is in Dotspotter's "next-generation community developers." The site ranks stories based on popularity and showcases community and social networking features based around gossip.

"We're going to buy these guys as a core team, and we're going to unleash them on," Smith said. "With three guys you can accomplish more than what you could have done with 80 10 years ago. These are people who can build dynamic things."

The purchase is in line with CBS' recent acquisition of Wallstrip, a humorous finance video site. Smith referred to the team behind that Web show as "Eyelab East," online producers making shortform content for the initiative announced last month.

In contrast to the other networks, CBS has been less focused on which platforms carry its content and what form that content takes once it is online. The CBS Audience Network syndicates network content across a wide range of Web platforms, from such traditional players as AOL and Microsoft to newer names such as Joost and Bebo, and the Eyelab project encourages both professional producers and amateur users to manipulate CBS content.