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Scripps Nets Aim to Involve Viewers

May 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

On the heels of HGTV’s success with its “Rate My Space” social networking portal, parent company Scripps Networks is launching additional social media initiatives this week for both DIY Network and Fine Living. The company expects that eventually about half of its online content will be user-generated.
The two new projects represent a rapid expansion for Scripps into what’s become the hottest buzzword in the online business in the last few months: social media. “Rate My Space” yielded more than 10 million page views in just six weeks earlier this year, giving Scripps a formula to quickly grow Web dollars.
Television networks are clamoring to launch social media tools on their Web sites because features like user-generated content, tagging, rating and posting videos and photos can expand Web traffic and impressions quickly, driving up ad dollars.
With the low cost of producing Web video enabling numerous competitors, networks are fighting back, using social media tools because of their potential to engender viewer loyalty.
“It’s becoming clear to us that there really is a place for the professional side and the user-generated side as long as the content is presented for what it is,” said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. “Expertise comes in many forms and fashions.”
Web sites that have added social media tools have seen traffic jumps of 30 percent to 100 percent, said Alex Blum, CEO of KickApps, the technology provider behind the DIY social media project.
HGTV’s “Rate My Space,” which encourages users to share decorating advice, generated 10 times more page views than expected after its Feb. 20 debut. The network is developing an on-air spin-off of the Web property for a 2008 launch.
Other TV networks are betting on social networking, too. NBC.com plans to add social networking to NBC.com this month, Oxygen launched the social network oomph.net for women in January, and Showtime’s “The L Word” rolled out a social networking site for lesbians earlier this year. Disney recently introduced a social networking site for kids.
They’re doing it because of the word-of-mouth nature of social networking, which builds stickiness for a site and benefits advertisers. A recent study commissioned by MySpace and digital agency Isobar found that youth-centric brands such as Adidas and Electronic Arts claim more than 70 percent of their marketing ROI on social network campaigns is due to the “pass along” or word-of-mouth effect of a brand within a social network. The study also found more than 40 percent of people who use social networks said they use them to learn about brands and products.
“Social networking opens up a whole new area of advertising,” said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst with eMarketer. “Having that person share some [advertiser content] with friends not only makes an impression on someone who has seen your ad, but on their friends who might see the ad on their friends’ pages, and so on.”
That stickiness drives Web visitors back to the network. “That’s still where the bulk of ad dollars are coming in,” Ms. Williamson said.
Scripps expects the social media features will grow revenue for an already robust online operation. The company’s Web division has been profitable since 2003 and ranks as the third-most-profitable business unit at Scripps Networks after the HGTV and Food Network cable channels.
Scripps recently reported that Internet revenues rose by 41 percent in the first quarter over the same period a year ago. Online CPMs are two to three times higher than on-air CPMs because of the higher engagement, Mr. Lansing said.
DIY’s social media site “My Project” will center on home repair; Fine Living’s site “We Live Here,” based on the show of the same name, will let users create their own profile pages about where they like to eat, shop and stay. Both Fine Living and DIY will create on-air programming from the Web content.
HGTV and DIY Network are the No. 1 and No. 2 content sites in the home and garden category, while Food Network is the No. 1 site in the food and cooking category, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

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