Television

Time Inc, AOL back together dishing up food online

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NEW YORK: They may be taking the name off the masthead, but Time Warner is finally getting around to cooperating with its spurned partner, AOL.

 

The online service yesterday launched AOL Food, a huge collection of recipe and cooking tips that incorporates Time Warner magazine titles such as Real Simple, Cooking Light and Southern Living. It represents the kind of synergy investors were promised when the companies merged three years ago.



"Finally! A good idea," said David Card, a senior analyst with Jupiter Research. "Time Warner is a behemoth with a long history of turf wars. That said, you don't want a central committee controlling all the business units."



After the companies merged, there was speculation that Time Warner would remove its magazines from the general Internet and place them behind AOL's subscription wall.



The synergy would benefit both companies, analysts said, shoring up AOL's rolls and attracting more advertisers to the online magazines. But the migration only started this year, and popular titles such as Sports Illustrated are still on the Web.



AOL Food, meanwhile, is the first project that was built from the ground up to combine the companies' expertise. It includes 100 employees from both divisions. "This shines a light on what's possible," said Tina Sharkey, senior vice president for life management and community. "You're going to see more things like this."



Some critics blame AOL's recent subscriber woes on the lack of such exclusive, integrated content. But Sharkey said it takes time to design compelling destinations, and that AOL Food has been under development for most of the year.



Card also wasn't sure that AOL Food would have stopped the 700,000 subscribers who have left the service in the past year. "But I do think it's a partial answer to keeping the subscribers they do have," he said.



AOL hasn't announced what other content collaborations are coming, but Card thinks personal finance is a logical choice. The company's magazines include Fortune and Business 2.0. "There's got to be a way they can beef that up," he said.

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