- Via PaidContent, I note there's a Forbes cover feature on 'Murdoch 2.0', discussing the various website-related purchases for Fox, and headed: "MySpace was just the start. Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants are betting big on the Internet."

However, the business magazine takes a close look at the stats for game (and tech and moves and 'babes', nowadays) site IGN, and doesn't like what it sees: "Murdoch paid $650 million, even more than MySpace, for ign, a collection of Web sites aimed at the electronic lad-mag set. It has underperformed; the number of unique visitors has grown a flaccid 21% over the last 14 months. In the race to exploit the Internet before it ravages his media empire, Murdoch and his lieutenant, Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, have moved faster than their competitors--which also makes it easy to stumble."

A little further on, there's some attempted justification for the sluggishness: "Chernin says the company expected the site's numbers to dip as gamers stopped buying titles for their Xboxes and Sony PlayStation 2s, while saving up for the next generation of machines." I mapped IGN, major competitor GameSpot, and a few of Fox's other sites using Alexaholic, to give you a vague idea of what's going on.

Personally, I don't think the console transition is a major excuse for sluggish traffic - advertising, maybe, but not so much traffic. The problem may be that IGN's userbase is so relatively large already that it's difficult to jump up massively unless your users are, say, doing all your social networking through the site - which isn't the case for IGN, though both it and GameSpot are clearly trying to add more and more 'Web 2.0' features to increase stickiness.

As a comparison, major blogs like Joystiq and Kotaku are surging up despite the console transition, but are starting much lower. But then, MySpace is doing that surging on the high end. So, I'm not sure $650 million was really remotely a good deal for buying IGN, given that the company had lost money all the way through to its late 2005 purchase, which saw Fox pick it up with "...an accumulated deficit of $23.3 million."

It's going to be interesting to see GameSpot's financial results (or more accurately, parent company CNET's), which will be filed later today, as another comparison point - the most recently available results had the company overall making a loss, though it's possible that GameSpot itself turns a modest profit. Sometimes I think that one of the odd things about the high-end game sites is that big companies like Ziff Davis and Future are rushing from relatively profitable (but tanking!) consumer print and straight into the web, but to where? MTV's sites like GameTrailers have a similar issue from a web perspective. Their role models at IGN/CNet are hardly coining it in, bloated with staff and complex multimedia operations as they are - and they rarely stand out editorially (with some exceptions, particularly in GameSpot News).

It's all they can do, of course, with staff and shareholders to support. But the web - I just don't think - is a medium that supports you throwing resources at it like that from a stumbling start. The ridiculous efficiency of sites such as Joystiq (whose entire editorial staff of 10+ costs about as much as 2 employees from a major site), and the careful organic growth of sites like Eurogamer is a far smarter approach than people who are trying to wade in at the deep end.

All this scrabbling desperation to scale rapidly toward sites that, themselves, just don't stand out that much editorially or financially? There must be another way. It's just odd - but maybe someone can build a better model by throwing the right assets as the problem, and as the Net continues to scale... this post could look really dumb in 5 years, eh? Perhaps the Dirty Digger will be laughing at me by then.