ABC.com Preps Major Relaunch
ABC.com executives are shunning the s-word - "stickiness," a now passe Web buzzword circa 1999 - but thats exactly what they hope to produce with the sites relaunch next month.
By adding original entertainment content, ABC.com wants to attract a younger, more loyal audience that is more desirable to online advertisers. But the change is also to align ABC.com more closely with the strategy of the ABC television network, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
On September 6, ABC.com will launch with a new design that incorporates Mr. Showbiz, a Disney-owned entertainment site, as well as selected content from Us Weekly magazine, of which Disney owns 50 percent and for which it has online distribution rights.
"Were kind of mixing these three ingredients - ABC.com, Mr. Showbiz and Us - simmer it a little bit, and we think well have a great site," said Harry Lin, vice president of content of ABC.com.
Mr. Showbiz will be shut down sometime in October, with the URL redirecting visitors to ABC.com; however, no layoffs are expected as part of the consolidation.
Lin said that ABC.com will "cherry-pick" content from the print version of Us Weekly, published by Wenner Media, rather than repurpose all of the magazines contents. For example, ABC.com will produce an interactive version of the magazines popular "Fashion Police" feature, Lin said.
ABC.com currently has 4 million unique visitors per day, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, but repeat visits to the site are comparatively low: People come back an average of only twice a month. Meanwhile, Mr. Showbizs 2.2 million daily unique visitors come to the site an average of 5.3 times per week. The goal, Lin said, is to boost traffic and visits in order to generate more online advertising revenue - and, someday, become profitable.
"In the past, ABC.com has been a promotional vehicle for the shows, but theres been no other reason for visitors to come back," he said. "We think if we can get people to come back, well have a very successful business." Lin declined to provide revenue figures for the site, or say when ABC.com expected to turn a profit.
The tweaks at ABC.com, which has about 75 dedicated employees, is part of the larger reorganization of the Walt Disney Internet Group. Earlier this year, Disney shuttered Go.com, its portal site, laying off 400 staffers. Since then, Disneys Internet properties have become much more closely affiliated with their offline counterparts.
As part of its September relaunch, timed to coincide with ABCs new fall season, ABC.com is also introducing new Web ad formats, including "skyscrapers" that run down the side of a page, large-format ads in the middle of pages, animated Dynamic HTML ads, and pop-under and exit ads.
"We went to media buyers and said: What are advertisers willing to pay for? " Lin said. "They told us advertisers wanted new formats - pop-unders, superstitials and exit ads." He added, though, that ABC.com would closely monitor user feedback with regard to pop-under ads, which many Internet users find intrusive.