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Eschewing Celebrities, Demand Media Refocuses

Re-embracing search-driven service content; Q2 shows promise

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Demand Media is returning to its roots. The content and social media company last week rolled out a new b-to-b ad campaign centered around the tagline, “Content for real life.”

As part of that effort, Demand seems to be re-embracing search-driven service journalism a year or so after it began tapping celebrities to bring more personality—and ad-friendly faces—to its sites, which include eHow and Livestrong. For example, the company recently cut ties with Rachael Ray, who signed on last June to develop content for eHow’s food channel. Meanwhile, the Tyra Banks fashion vehicle typeF.com may eventually be folded into eHow. Her site, which has seen its audience hover at around 3.7 million unique users, per comScore, has generated 65,000 Facebook likes and 2.1 million YouTube views. (Collectively, eHow has generated 463.4 million YouTube views.)

“We’ve had most of our success to date with digital natives, those with endemic voices,” said Erika Nardini, svp of sales and marketing at Demand Media. “Our content is about bringing everyday value to your life for big and small things. Nobody listens the way we do.”

That’s because Demand’s properties, notably eHow, are driven by search data—an approach that has drawn critics. But Demand has embraced this direction, fed by Google-friendly articles like “Banish a Cold, Fast!”

Sarah Baehr, evp, managing director at Carat, sees Demand's abilty to produce content quickly as a perhaps underated asset. "There are so many companies that are in the business of content now it's hard to differentiate," Baehr said. "That said, as the content creation world becomes increasingly more crowded and the idea of brands as publishers continues to evolve, having a niche rather than trying to be all things to all people may be good strategy."

Regardless, while shifting gears, Demand is definitely not scaling back, emphasized Nardini. Following a rocky IPO last year, Demand’s Q2 showed promise. Expect new brands and acquisitions. “We are investing,” Nardini said.