Two of AOL’s new content partners, The Sporting News and Everyday Health, are both counting on the portal to deliver major traffic numbers in return for providing AOL (NYSE: AOL) with ad sales. In a conversation with execs from both The Sporting News and Everyday Health, it is revealed that the arrangement with AOL — with its roughly 14 million daily users visitors and 114 million monthly uniques (as per comScore) — is part of a never-ending chase for greater and greater scale.
The Sporting News: Jeff Price, Sporting News’ president and publisher, has done many deals with portals when he was at Sports Illustrated. So the main goal he had when he started talking with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong several months ago about a content distribution deal was to just keep things simple. The arrangement between the two certainly qualifies as that. Basically, starting March 1, going to AOL’s sports blog FanHouse will redirect to SportingNews.com.
“Our target is to be a top 10 sports site in terms of traffic, and the immediate combination with AOL should satisfy that on day one,” Price said. Leaving little to chance, it’s no coincidence that the partnership begins on March 1, two weeks before the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. He also said that the AOL deal does not compromise existing content deals with Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), which was signed in November, and video site CineSport. “Being able to show advertisers significant scale and reach is what this is all about.” (One partnership the AOL deal won’t impact is Sporting News’ deal with Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) — that collaboration ended in September, Price said.)
Asked if he was worried that absorbing FanHouse or being associated with AOL in general would result in any brand dilution or diffusion, Price offered a few reasons of why he was sure it wouldn’t be a problem. For one thing, the 125-year-old Sporting News is known for its straight news coverage, while FanHouse trades in opinion. “It might have been a problem if we were a publication with a lot of columnists. But we’re not, so FanHouse and AOL is purely additive.” In fact, Price’s earliest discussions with Armstrong about a deal were mostly about FanHouse.
Everyday Health: CEO Ben Wolin started talking to Armstrong about a deal last summer. He also said that there are no serious challenges or problems that will need to be faced in terms of taking over the advertising and the content for AOL Health. “We expect AOL to send us 100- to 200 million users annually, and we have 27 million uniques a month, so there’s only an upside, not a downside,” Wolin said.
He added that the AOL deal is one of many the site is going to be pursuing aggressively this year. “We want our brand everywhere; it’s as simple as that,” Wolin said. And while nine-year-old Everyday Health is comfortable taking over the ad sales for AOL’s health channel, he views the company as a potential partner as well.