Monday, September 17, 2007

Hearst to Acquire Health Web Site RealAge

The announcement by Hearst Magazines that it is buying a consumer website is further recognition how the web has changed our behavior. I was recently asked when did I make the jump from going to the newspaper to look up movie theater times to searching for that info on the web. I still read newspapers, but the immediacy of the web and the fact that the info can now be retrieved faster led to that transition.

In the case of the above announcement, what magazines need to recognize is the same shift of behavior and to adapt each to suit the user's needs. Magazines aren't dead, and the value of the Magazine brand can extend across technologies. With this acquisition, Hearst appears to be spreading the risk by sharing the content of the RealAge website across multiple magazine brands, Oprah and Cosmo.

The key is synergy of content with convergence across distribution, to satisfy user interest and keep them loyal to the brand longer. To escape the long tail of usage and find a large audience, content from the web needs partners across other media and multiple distribution paths, to build brand awareness, preference, and value. Big fish do eat small fish and that is what makes them bigger and stronger.