Cambio Sees Strength in Numbers

AOL's teen site tries to reach deeper into the teen demo, with help from JLo

There’s a new clique of teen sites. Last December, AOL’s teen/celebrity-oriented Cambio (a joint venture among AOL, MGX Lab and Jonas Group, associated with the boy band) signed on TV entertainment site Wetpaint as its first partner in the newly formed Cambio Network. Now Cambio is adding partners to the network, including website HuffPost Teen, social gaming virtual world Meez and teen literary publication Teen Ink.

The Cambio Network will share content and growth strategies as well as offer brands and media agencies a network of sites targeting teens and young adults.

Nathan Coyle, general manager of Cambio, said part of the motivation for creating the network lies with that young and marketer-desired demographic. While a handful of sites could deliver most of the 25-to-44-year-old demographic, reach is a surprising challenge in the teen space, he said, as most players in the flooded market struggle to offer more than 3 million unique visitors each month. Not including HuffPost Teen, Coyle pegged the Cambio Network’s reach at 9.2 million monthly uniques and estimated that HuffPo Teen would increase that audience by 10 million to 11 million consumers.

The hope is that each of the new partners sees traffic benefits from the network. For example, Coyle said the partnerships will expand Cambio’s target audience from teens to 12-to-24-year-olds. Yet some partners may provide more of a boost than others. Between December 2010 and 2011, Wetpaint grew its U.S. monthly uniques by 67 percent to 1.7 million, and Teen Ink’s website traffic swelled 162 percent over the period to 139,000 visitors, according to Nielsen (numbers for HuffPost Teen weren’t available).

But the Cambio and Meez numbers have been erratic at best. According to Nielsen, Cambio’s numbers fell 60 percent to 493,000 uniques in the period, but comScore provides a different story. Per comScore, Cambio hit 1.2 million U.S. uniques for the month after its September 2011 relaunch, shot to 1.6 million in December and settled at 1.06 million in February. Meanwhile, between December 2010 and 2011, Meez’s U.S. traffic dropped 21 percent to 495,000 uniques—although Meez CEO John Cahill said visitors average 193 minutes spent on the site.

Collective reach remains the network’s primary selling point to brand partners such as AT&T, Sony Pictures and M&M’s. Coyle said brands and their media agencies will need to work with an AOL sales rep to choose which of the network’s sites they want to run ads against and have the ability to piggyback content as it’s distributed across the network.

For example, later this year Cambio will debut entertainment news show Tiger Beat Entertainment, which features Jennifer Lopez as a co-executive producer. The show will be distributed through Cambio, Meez and Wetpaint, and advertisers will be able to create integrated brand experiences tailored to each site’s video hub, Coyle said.

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