April 10, 2007
Fox and Hearst Team Up for Online Video Content for Popular Magazine Titles

News broke yesterday that Hearst Magazines has formed a deal with Fox Television Studio to create a variety of video series that would initially launch online and that might eventually filter onto network television. The television content will be based on popular Hearst magazine titles.

The first two of these projects will feature video content under the titles Popular Mechanics and Cosmo Girl, perhaps unsurprisingly two fairly explicitly gendered magazines. After first reading this, I envisioned a news-oriented or features-oriented magazine-style show bearing the name of the magazine, but it appears that, at least for the initial Cosmo Girl offering, the plan is quite different.

The Cosmo Girl Internet video content will be a series of 2-3 minute Webisodes featuring a serialized drama, called a soap opera by press coverage of the idea. However, the plan is to make interactivity key to the Webisode series, as fans will have the chance to submit ideas for the next direction for the narrative between episodes that may then affect the fate of the series.

Both shows will be featured in short Webisodes in this first version of the project and will be pushed through each magazine's Web site as well as through popular video sites like AOL and Yahoo!

According to James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek, "The deal marks the first union between conglomerates Fox and Hearst, with the companies agreeing to a 50-50 split of any advertising revenue."

This first foray into television will be for testing the waters and may to lead to a greater number of Hearst magazine titles launching video content and the eventual plans to move that video content onto TV.

Over at HipMojo, Ashkan Karbafrooshan writes that the deal makes sense on several fronts. First, Fox and Hearst are both conglomerates but are not largely competitors, since Fox's is largely a video media company and Hearst a print media company (although there are plenty of crossovers nonetheless). He contends as well that Fox's primary demographic is male, while Hearst's is female, meaning that both companies could help the other in formulating ways to reach more consumers of the other sex. Finally, he claims that "neither company really has found the sweet spot online."

Meanwhile, David Burn at AdPulp writes that he believes the initiative will succeed primarily because it does not involve the "pull media" trend that is becoming so popular in Web 2.0. "Very few brands have accepted that a pull strategy may not work," he writes.

It's still way too early for any predictions of success or failure to be anything other than wild speculation, since the partnership has just been announced, but it seems the type of convergence project that works well. Rather than Hearst trying to stumble through making their own videos, they partner with a studio with a lot of experience in producing television. Conversely, Fox gets a branded space that already has a following to launch into the digital television platform with original content.