AOL has completed its acquisition of Bebo, a global social media network that will be the center of AOL's newly created People Networks business unit.
Bebo's CEO Joanna Shields will serve as Executive Vice President of AOL and President of People Networks, which combines Bebo, AIM, ICQ and AOL's other community platforms and reaches about 80 million users worldwide.* Shields will report to AOL President and COO Ron Grant.
“With the addition of Bebo and the creation of People Networks, AOL is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the exploding social media space by delivering a more personal experience for consumers and a better way for advertisers to engage them,” said Randy Falco, Chairman and CEO of AOL. “AOL is now fully focused on growing our business in three key areas – our advertising network, publishing and people networks – by delivering relevant content and advertising across the Web, and we’re making great progress in each area.”
In March, AOL’s publishing network hit an all-time high in both unique visitors and page views, the sixth consecutive month of growth, according to comScore Media Metrix, which also ranked AOL’s Platform-A the leading online display advertising network in th U.S., with a reach of 91% of the domestic online audience.
Ron Grant added that: “Unlike other social networks, which have had a difficult time monetizing their sites without jeopardizing the user experience, Bebo created an environment that enables advertisers, brands and media companies to engage in meaningful, relevant conversations with its users. Combining Bebo with our other social media applications, our content sites, and Platform-A gives us an unmatched opportunity to create value for these highly engaged audiences.”
One of the first initiatives for People Networks will be to integrate AOL’s other community applications and tools, including IM, chat and mail functionality into Bebo. It will also let users merge AIM and Bebo profiles so they can use common screen names without re-registering. AIM is the leading instant messaging network in the U.S., with more than 30 million users. ICQ has 28 million active users worldwide.
In addition, People Networks will integrate other recent AOL acquisitions, including widget technology company Goowy Media and social search question and answer service Yedda. Integration plans also include the cross-distribution of AOL and Bebo content and applications to expand the scale of the combined networks.
For example, AOL will promote Bebo’s successful original programming – including the award-winning “KateModern,” “Sofia’s Diary” and “The Gap Year” -- across several AOL channels. Also, Bebo is integrating AOL music and entertainment content.
Bebo’s Open Media platform lets media companies distribute their content to Bebo’s users and retain 100% of their ad revenues. Open Media launched in November 2007 with CBS, MTV Networks, BBC, Turner, ESPN and others, and now has more than 400 partners providing tens of thousands of videos to Bebo’s extensive video archive.
Founded in 2005, Bebo quickly became one of the leading social networks in the UK. It is ranked No. 1 in Ireland and New Zealand, and No. 3 in the U.S. in terms of engagement. Bebo’s worldwide users spend an average of 30 minutes a day on the site. Bebo has approximately 100 employees operating in offices in the UK, San Francisco and Austin, TX.