Correction to This Article
This article about the launch of a news site by Discovery Communications incorrectly said that the company blamed a rise in operating costs for its most recent quarter's decline in profits. The company cited a change in the value of stock-based compensation as the main reason for that decline. Also, early advertising on the Discovery News site includes the company's line of retail products, not its retail stores, which were closed two years ago.

Discovery Communications launches science news Web site

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications announced Monday that it has launched a new Web site dedicated to reporting science and technology news.

Just as Discovery's television shows sometimes focus on the latest scientific findings from far-flung locales around the globe, so will the news site focus on archaeological discoveries or fresh theories about the workings of the universe.

As the site went online Monday morning, its first lead story was about the recent possible discovery of the remains of a Persian army lost in the Egyptian desert about 2,500 years ago. Other items took a Discovery Channel approach to the day's news, such as an interview with a clinical psychologist who discussed factors that sometimes lead to violent outbursts such as the Fort Hood shootings.

"We're on a mission to make people smarter about the world around them," said Miguel Monteverde, the site's general manager. He has been with Discovery for two years; earlier in his career, he oversaw development of video content for AOL's Web network.

As mainstream news publications trim their budgets and cut back on coverage of science and technology news, Monteverde said, the new Discovery site will seek to fill that gap. The site's reporting will also be the central attraction of a new iPhone application launched by the company; priced at 99 cents, the Discovery News software became available at the iTunes store on Monday.

John Morton, president of the Silver Spring media consultancy Morton Research, agreed that mainstream newspapers have been reducing their coverage of the type of news that the Discovery site aims to cover.

"This is another example of organizations trying to step in and fill the gaps that have been left by newspaper coverage," he said. "I just hope that the work [Discovery News does] is high-quality. Some of their television programming leaves a lot to be wanted and is very entertainment-oriented."

But, he added, "the public generally ought to welcome it. This is at least a gesture in the right direction."

With a team of about 25 reporters based around the globe, the Discovery Channel's Web site has featured news reporting for more than a decade. After finding that its original reporting was one of the site's most popular features, the company decided last year to launch a stand-alone, dedicated news site. The Discovery Channel Web site gets about 5 million unique visitors a month, Monteverde said. The company does not yet know how much traffic to expect at the news site.

Monteverde did not say when or if the ad-supported site is expected to turn a profit. "We want to do our part to support our company's goals," he said. "[But] my team is focused exclusively on making great content." Early advertisers on the site include Toyota, Lexus, Columbia Sportswear and Discovery's own line of retail stores.

Last week, Discovery missed analysts' forecasts when it reported that its third-quarter profit fell 29 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier. The company blamed an increase in operating costs for the decline. For fiscal 2009, Discovery projects earnings of $525 million to $550 million.

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