All In The Family: AOL, Bonnier’s Parenting Group Form Ad, Content Alliance

AOL (NYSE: AOL) may have recently had a high-profile rap on the knuckles from a shareholder not pleased with the company’s direction, but it has continued to forge ahead with its strategy to find innovative ways of growing the reach of its advertising network and traffic on its own content sites. The latest: a deal with the publisher Bonnier’s Parenting Group to sell ad inventory and promote content from, in a bid to bring more moms to the AOL table.
Under the agreement, AOL will get a chance to sell premium ad space for the Group’s flagship website,, while will be able to tap into some of AOL’s more advanced assets around ad tech and marketing services. It is expected to go into effect at the beginning of Q1 2012.
The deal will give the Parenting Group potentially access to a new class of advertisers as a result, since AOL will be able to add’s inventory to its own for more comprehensive media buys from advertisers seeking to target parents — and specifically surfing moms. The release did not specify how much of’s inventory will go into the AOL mix, and what the financial terms of the alliance would be.
According to AdAge, this deal appears to be different (and likely more lucrative) than the pre-existing partnerships that AOL has to sell ad inventory for publishers: those deals covered only inventory unsold by the publishers themselves, similar to the ad alliance that AOL recently formed with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), around unsold ad inventory.
The content part of the alliance, meanwhile, will see AOL “integrate” content from into different AOL properties including Huffington Post Parents, the AOL Family channel and itself. Cross-posting third party content is something already does on its own site, running a feed of family-related stories from NBC’s
The idea in the AOL deal is to bring more mother/parent content, and therefore traffic, to AOL’s properties. But AOL says that it will also provide links to the content back to, so in theory Bonnier’s site should see a traffic bump as a result as well. AOL says the content part of the deal alone will cover 12.5 million users if you add together, AOL Family and HuffPost Parents.
As with all alliances, particularly those between companies that might have in the past been competitors, the devil will be in the details. Which company will take the lead in a particular sale, and will there be a get-out clause if the ad partnership doesn’t produce the desired effect?
Still, given that AOL has a lot more work to do to beef up its content business to keep disgruntled investors happy; and that risks falling behind competitors if it doesn’t add more scale, there may be more to gain here than lose.