AOL to drive growth through niche audiences

AOL is shifting its focus toward serving niche audiences with the launch of dozens of specialty web sites, an Associated Press report said.

The latest, ParentDish for parents, formally launched last week, with The Boot for country music and The Boom Box for hip hop and R&B to follow.

Time Warner's AOL, branching out in hopes of doing a better job attracting crucial advertising revenue to offset its rapidly declining internet access business, calls the niche sites 'passion points,' the Associated Press report further said.

The sites reflect a growing sophistication of internet users, who are spending less time at portals like AOL.com and Yahoo.com. and directly seeking specialized content at more focused sites.

Examples outside AOL include Boing Boing, which keeps tabs on technology and the internet; The Sartorialist, on street style; or Mom Logic, on parenting and being a mom.

'The consumer market is clearly fragmenting,' Bill Wilson, AOL's executive vice president for vertical programming, was quoted by the report as saying. 'We wanted to give people many front doors, not just one front door to come in.'

Over the past several months, AOL has launched or revamped dozens of web sites, from general portals such as Music and Sports to specialty sites like Spinner for indie music and StyleList for fashion. AOL plans to offer about two dozen more by year's end, including BigDownload for downloadable video games.

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