Yahoo Buys Bix to Bolster Social Media and Sponsorship Packages

Yahoo just voted Bix the hottest user-generated contest site. The publisher has been eyeing the social media competition platform since its beta earlier this year, and just agreed to fold the firm into its Sunnyvale, CA operation. In addition to helping Yahoo compete with other social CGM plays like News Corp.’s MySpace and Google’s YouTube, the platform will fit snugly with many of Yahoo’s current content offerings, and will enable the firm to go after unique sponsorship deals.

“We definitely see this as a platform. It’s not just about a great destination experience, but also about how it can be omnipresent across everything Yahoo does,” said Brad Garlinghouse, SVP of Yahoo’s recently-created Communities, Communications and Front Doors division.

Started by Epinions co-founder and staffed by other alumnae of the reviews site, Bix combines standard social networking features, allowing people to upload video, display photos, post poetry, create profile pages and add “fans” from throughout the network. The twist is its contest functionality, enabling users to create and enter contests, like the one pitting “Hot Stanford Profs” in a brainy beauty contest, or another asking people to pick the best Japanese anime characters.

Bix has already found a way to monetize the contests through sponsorships, such as the holiday song crooning battle currently being promoted, “Brought to you by Impact Radio Networks.” Amusement park company Six Flags recently sponsored a screaming contest on the site, awarding ride line-cutting privileges to the winner.

“They’re doing very creative things in conjunction with advertising,” said Garlinghouse, who anticipates Yahoo will develop similar custom sponsorships for advertisers on the platform.

Judging by the number of people voting on Bix contests (scream contest winner LaniWolfe garnered 98 votes), Yahoo’s purchase decision has far more to do with the company’s technology than its user base. “Yahoo is quite nimble,” Garlinghouse said. “When we see something that could have a broad impact on Yahoo, much like we did with Flickr, we don’t spend months and months and months talking to these guys.”

Obvious Yahoo features ripe for Bix contest integration are the firm’s photo site, Flickr, its Yahoo Answers offering, its popular Groups section and Yahoo 360, its social networking area. The Bix addition, said Garlinghouse, will “further our culture of user participation.”
He also pointed to Bix’s distribution capabilities, allowing users to place their Bix content elsewhere on the Web. Yahoo will take advantage of that functionality, said Garlinghouse. “From a strategic point of view that’s definitely where we’re headed.”

Other CGM video sites are taking a similar tack to drum up revenue. Earlier this week, user-generated video firm GoFish unveiled its branded entertainment division, to be headed by three former Yahoo executives C.J. Bowden, David Fisch and Lori Macias. The firm in July launched America’s Dream Date, a casting-call type contest with a reality-show feel, sponsored by JetSet Beverage’s JetSet energy drink.

According to Garlinghouse, Bix will be entirely integrated into Yahoo operations, with all 16 staffers expected to move to Yahoo’s Sunnyvale offices.

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