PlanetGov.com shelves content site

The wave of dot-coms and IT firms closing shop and/or slashing personnel has hit the federal space with Dec. 21's news that PlanetGov.com has ceased operation of its content site.

"It is no longer," former PlanetGov technology reporter Chris Dorobek said in a Dec. 22 interview from his home. "They laid folks off yesterday. What was ITC [the parent company] will still exist, but the content site has been shut down."

Planetgov revived some content in early January, including wire service copy and Mike Causey's Federal Forum.

PlanetGov.com made its official debut in May after weeks of hype surrounding the hiring of high-tech company officials and high-profile journalists, including Mike Causey, longtime writer of The Washington Post's Federal Diary.

PlanetGov was designed to function as a "virtual online community center" for current and former government employees, according to the Web site. The portal includes news reports, online shopping and original columns and features, according to Steve Baldwin, chief executive officer and president of Chantilly, Va.-based PlanetGov, who commented during an interview with FCW in May.

A "lack of funding" was the reason given to employees for their termination.

"There was no notice," Dorobek said. "They were interviewing to hire people 24 hours before."

PlanetGov.com also sold information technology-related products to the federal government through a number of contracts, including the National Institutes of Health's Electronic Computer Store II, the Army's Personal Computer-3 and the Bureau of Prisons' Net 2000.

The company's business model was questionable from the outset, said Alan Bechara, vice president of the public sector for Comark Federal Systems, a government reseller.

"I couldn't figure out how they could sustain that business model," Bechara said. "They were a reseller but didn't have strong backing from a distributor or anybody, and there's lots of direct competition there. They also played around with selling Web content and developing, and that's also hard to sustain without critical mass behind you."

Bechara said the timing of the layoffs surprised him, but he did not think management was to blame. "They are excellent businessmen, but sometimes these things just don't work out."

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