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Strange Bedfellows: The New (Media) Deal

We had hoped that the “Strange Bedfellows” panel would have talked about the BloodCopy bloodbath, but panelists Chuck Cordray, Tom Smith, Ellen Stone, Michael Silberman, and Steve Rosenbaum had other partnerships on their minds. Cordray and Smith—both from Hearst—had a lot to say about their six-month-old startup, Delish.com, which has been a top 10 food site each month of its existence. The site’s partnership with MSN, Cordray says, was the kick that boosted the site’s rankings that high. “The best bottom line result is the driver” of such partnerships, he said. “How much you get to keep will be much larger with a partner than it would be on your own,” even if partnering means you have to split revenue.

Ellen Stone, SVP of marketing at Bravo Media, cites similar deals with Top Chef. “We decided to launch a nationwide tour” to drum up interest for the show. So they brought in sponsors—Glad and Quaker—”it wasn’t a total ad sponsorship but a partnership..it changed what the chefs were sampling. We’re about to come out with a Top Chef wine; we’ll go to our partners and ask where the opportunities are to get our wine out there. Maybe Quaker will want to have a dinner, and they’ll serve our wine.”

The key in getting into digital is twofold, according to our panelists. One, says Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify.net, is aggregation. “Suddenly publishers are realizing they don’t have to make everything.” His technology allows editors to curate video from around the ‘net and add it to video produced in-house. “The visitors don’t care where it comes from. Whether it has a youtube logo or a metacafe logo or a NYMag logo–if a human being creates that experience, the end user sees it as part of a whole.”

The other key is to be smart about building: Cordray says Hearst always asks, when targeting a new market, “should we buy, should we build, or should we partner?” Hearst’s three largest sites fall into each of the three categories: Delish, a partnership, RealAge, an acquisition, and Cosmopolitan, whose online content Hearst produced in-house.

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