AOL Basks in MediaGlow’s Expansion

If any two sites encapsulate MediaGlow, AOL’s newly formed media division, it would be Asylum—a Web 2.0 Maxim, which recently carried the headline, “5 Game Songs That Would Make Great Porn Music”—and Lemondrop, an edgy young-female-aimed blog which recently featured an article titled “Time To Choose, Your Ass or Your Face?” This is not your mom’s AOL.

Asylum and Lemondrop are part of a growing unit of niche sites that produce original content and link across the Web. The plan is for MediaGlow to go from roughly 70 of these brands to 100 by the end of 2009. When picking new launches, AOL looks for underserved topics, demos or segments to which AOL can add scale.

MediaGlow sites’ look, feel and publishing style vary widely. Some, like AOL Health, leverage the AOL brand, while others, like Asylum and Lemondrop, deliberately do not.

Some properties are built in conjunction with advertisers, like the recently launched Good News Now (GNN.com), which was created with Sears as an outlet for users seeking positive news during these rough economic times. Others are video-centric projects, such as last week’s debut of the daily Hollywood-themed Moviephone Minute, which is sponsored by Verizon.

“We are building a digital publishing company for the future,” says Bill Wilson, MediaGlow president. Part of the future means keeping costs low compared to traditional media. Wilson points to Asylum, which started in 2007 with two people, and now has five staffers publishing the site in six countries around the world. So far, MediaGlow sites are finding audiences: collectively, page views increased 21 percent year-over-year to 5.7 billion in February.

The key to success will be getting advertisers clear on the strategy. Under the previous administration, those sites were “so under the radar,” says Margaret Clerkin, CEO, North America, MindShare Interaction.

Still, Clerkin sees potential. With MediaGlow, “they may have a chance to reposition themselves.”