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Go2Net acquires Web21 for $13.5 million

The network of content sites adds the Net rating firm to its roster in an effort to add some "meat" to its channels.

Go2Net celebrated the new year by adding another Web site to its network of popular and low-maintenance properties.

Go2Net, whose network includes Silicon Investor, MetaCrawler, and PlaySite, said it has acquired consumer Web ratings site Web21. Web21 gleans traffic information from network caches and publishes top 100 lists in various categories.

The $13.5 million stock deal brings Go2Net a profitable index business that the company plans to promote on its own as well as integrate into the other sites on its network.

"We believe in indexes," said Go2Net chief operating officer John Keister. "The index adds some meat to our channels, and to the other sites as well."

Go2Net redesigned with a channel model last month, with the content categories Computing, Education, Entertainment, Finance, Games, Health, News, Shopping, Sports, and Travel.

The company has pursued an acquisition strategy that focuses on profitable sites with low overhead. With fewer than ten employees, 1 million unique visitors per month, and the rare distinction of being a profitable Internet venture, Web21 meets that description.

Go2Net will not disclose the size of Web21's profit prior to the release of Go2Net's fourth-quarter results next month.

The acquisition of Web21 comes on the heels of two important mergers in the Web ratings space. In October, Nielsen Media invested in NetRatings, and Media Metrix and RelevantKnowledge merged.

Web21's rankings differ from those of the major ratings firms in that they are primarily for the use of consumers in search of highly trafficked sites--the Web equivalent of "Top 40" radio rankings--rather than businesses in search of advertising opportunities.

"We don't view ourselves as competitors to Media Metrix or Nielsen," Keister said. "Web21 is primarily a consumer resource, and it's free. The difference is that anyone can see the top sites in any of the categories, and they don't have to pay thousands of dollars per month to do it."

The firms also differ in methodology. While the business-oriented ratings firms rely on representative pools of Internet users to gauge Web site traffic, Web21 extrapolates from network caches employed by Internet service providers.

"Is the data perfect? No," concedes Keister. "But our top 25 map is pretty darn close to Media Metrix."