Will AOL Try to Replace TMZ?

As you may have read, TMZ will no longer be part of the AOL family once it splits from Time Warner, which will operate the site instead. AOL confirmed this with me today.

So, is this a blow to AOL from an advertising sales perspective? Well, TMZ took ad sales in-house in July. So, it may not even be a boon for Time’s sales staff.

However, TMZ has been a nice jewel for AOL to show off when hyping its owned properties, at least from a branding perspective. In May, comScore Media Metrix ranked the celeb gossip site second in its entertainment news category, with 9.2 million unique visitors – second to Omg.com’s 12.5 million in May.

The company in January unveiled its MediaGlow publishing unit, which included TMZ, Moviefone, and others. The firm said at the time they’d roll out 30 new sites this year.

In its positioning in front of advertisers and agencies, AOL has made a big deal of its plans to ramp up its owned content. It’s pointed to MediaGlow traffic growth on sites like FanHouse, BlackVoices, AOL Health, StyleList.com, and Engadget.

And consider this: AOL downplays TMZ in its own site navigation. Clicking “Celebrity News” takes users to its pop culture site Popeater.com, while TMZ is far below that link on the nav.

Still, even if AOL intends for Popeater to compete with TMZ, or plans to acquire or build out another celeb gossip property, it will have a lot of catching up to do. According to Quantcast’s direct measurement, TMZ grabbed 4.4 million uniques last week, while Quantcast’s estimated weekly traffic for Popeater.com since 2007 is pegged at 806,000 uniques.

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