AOL is expected to announce today that it is launching a new core unit to oversee the expansion and monetization of its online publishing business. The unit will be known as MediaGlow.
MediaGlow will take its place beside advertising unit Platform A and social networking arm People Networks as the third core business for the company. AOL already operates a host of popular content sites, such as TMZ.com and Moviefone.com, and MediaGlow will be charged with aggressively expanding on that business.
“Our vision was to rebuild AOL into three core businesses — publishing, advertising and social media. With the launch of MediaGlow, we have completed our goal in less than 18 months,” Randy Falco, chairman and CEO of AOL, said in a press release. “MediaGlow provides us with the ability to extend our publishing success and puts AOL in a very strong position for the future.”
The company may best be known for its disastrous merger with Time Warner and a struggling advertising business, but its 75 content sites represent a bright spot for the company. So while it is easy to question the wisdom of launching a publishing initiative just as the advertising market is tanking, it is easy to see why AOL would want to focus on this part of its business.
The unit will be lead by Bill Wilson, executive vice president of programming for AOL.
According to the release, AOL hopes to launch 30 new sites in 2009, using the same model it has employed for its current successes: low-cost sites that target niche audiences, such as TheBoot.com, its popular country music site, and StyleList.com. which focuses on men’s fashion.
Specific areas for expansion include news and sports, reality television, jazz and heavy metal, the release said. AOL will also construct two new studios, called Media Glow Studios, located in New York and Los Angeles, to facilitate high-end video production for the sites.
AOL claims that over the past year its content sites have seen page views increase 40 percent, engagement increase 20 percent and audience reach grow to 70 million unique visitors per month.
“Make no mistake, AOL has become a true digital content company,” Ron Grant, AOL’s president and COO, said in the release. “Over the past year, we have mastered the art of producing high-quality vertical and niche programming at scale. Now by centralizing and investing in this infrastructure, we will ensure that we are maximizing our potential for monetization.”
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