Radio One to Offer Cross-Channel Ad Buys with Social Net Acquisition

Radio One’s acquisition of social networking company Community Connect will spawn a range of cross-platform opportunities for advertisers looking to target minority audiences, executives from both companies said Monday.

Community Connect owns and operates three minority-oriented social networks: BlackPlanet.com, AsianAve.com, and MiGente.com, which targets Latinos. It was acquired for $38 million last week by Radio One, the largest radio broadcaster in the U.S. targeting African-Americans and “urban” audiences.

Radio One also owns Giant, a culture and hip-hop magazine, as well as portions of TV One and ReachMedia, which produces the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

Radio One has immediate plans to let marketers advertise across all its on- and off-line holdings with a single ad buy, said Tom Newman, president of Radio One’s Interactive division.

“We are currently working with several marketers to buy [ads] across radio, TV, print and our online platforms,” he said. “Of course, Community Connect allows us to really offer an online presence at significant scale. I think our marketers will be excited about that.”

On its own, Community Connect boasts over 23 million members and about half a billion hits per month, according to its president, CEO and founder Ben Sun. Unlike some social network providers, the 12-year-old company offers standard advertising fare like banner ads, but also works with marketers to reach its audiences through sponsorships, personal pages and microsites.

The company maintains an advertising staff to helps marketers tailor their messages across various minority audiences, as well. For example, for its 2007 movie War, Current Entertainment bought advertising across all three of the company’s networks, alternately highlighting the movie’s Asian star, African-American director and Latina leading lady.

Community Connect also collects extensive demographic information upon registration to any of its sites, which can be used to aggressively tailor ads. But Sun said the Radio One deal will greatly expand the value it can offer advertisers.

“We’ve grown our sites without any advertising, so Radio One’s audience will allow us to really expand our reach,” he said. “It will also allow us to offer that much more by going cross-platform, to really offer a deeper interaction with our brand. This will put us in a true leadership position.”

It is still not clear, however, what Radio One will do with Community Connect’s non-black sites. Newman acknowledged that sites such as AsianAve.com and MiGente.com rest outside Radio One’s usual target audience, but said they are still close enough to add value.

“Our primary focus at Radio One is the urban market and folks interested in that lifestyle, he said. “But we think [the other sites are] a nice complement to our existing content, and there will be a lot of overlap in terms of content and interests.”

Just last week, IAC debuted the first-ever black-oriented search engine, RushmoreDrive.com. The service uses a patented algorithm to merge mainstream search results with sites most frequented by African-Americans.

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