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Work.com Is Sold for Mere $500,000 to Business.com

March 31, 2001|ALEX PHAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Business.com Inc., which paid a record $7 million for its Web domain 18 months ago, has purchased rival Work.com for a mere $500,000, reflecting how far valuations of Internet companies have fallen recently.

For Dow Jones & Co. and Excite@Home, which together plowed about $30 million into the joint venture, Work.com represents an unsuccessful attempt to leverage Dow Jones news and sell software to small and medium-sized businesses.

"In this kind of emerging medium, it's important to do some experimentation," Dow Jones spokesman Dick Tofel said. "And not all experiments are going to succeed."

Dow Jones continues to have a substantial online presence. The company's marquee site, http://www.wsj.com, had 535,000 paying subscribers as of Dec. 31, bringing in revenue of more than $50 million last year, Tofel said. And its Factiva online news service, which reported $250 million in revenue last year, continues to grow, Tofel said.

The decision to jettison Work.com stemmed from a broader belt-tightening effort at Dow Jones, which this week said it will lay off an unspecified number of workers at WSJ.com. Work.com, based in Redwood City, Calif., had 113 employees, all of whom are now out of work.

Work.com's demise is expected to benefit Business.com, a Santa Monica business information Web site founded by Jake Winebaum, former head of Walt Disney Co.'s online business.

Business.com, with its $61 million cash infusion in September, has managed to outlast its rivals--although it has yet to turn a profit.

"It got very nasty last year," said Peter Gumbel, editor in chief of Business.com. "Everyone was going after the same audience. With the downturn in advertising, the smoke is now clearing from the battlefield, and we're still standing."

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