AOL Inc. has launched a venture capital fund focused on “hyper-local” Internet startups, as part of a larger strategic focus on expanding the company’s local content. PaidContent reports that the fund size is $10 million.
AOL Inc. (NYSE:AOL) today announced a significant expansion of its focus on local content that will complement its hyper-local offerings with the relaunch of City’s Best to major U.S. metro areas.
AOL’s 2010 plan to digitize towns across America includes an aggressive expansion of Patch, the growing hyper-local news and information platform already available in nearly 40 communities. The company also intends to relaunch its City’s Best properties in 25 cities later this year and add high-quality, city-specific content to its “best of” entertainment options for each of these metro audiences.
As part of its expanded focus on local, AOL is establishing a dedicated venture capital fund to evaluate entrepreneurial initiatives in the local space – one of the first such initiatives of its kind. An increasing number of start-ups are fundamentally improving the local experience for consumers, businesses, governments and organizations throughout the world. AOL will target these types of companies with its local fund, which will operate out of AOL Ventures.
“AOL is investing meaningfully in our communities through trusted, professional journalism and location-specific content in a compelling way that is valued by our users and attractive to our advertisers,” said AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong. “Local is the one area of the Internet that has not been built out in an extensive way. While there are companies in the local space, AOL has the technology to digitize the local space at scale. We believe it’s an untapped market for the most part and one of the largest commercial opportunities online that has yet to be won.”
In addition, AOL intends to increasingly incorporate local content on the AOL.com homepage, using intuitive geo-targeting technology to tailor information across a range of interests to the user’s location later this year.
“AOL is focused on building meaningful content with our local platforms – regardless of how or where consumers connect to us,” said Jon Brod, Executive Vice President of AOL Ventures, Local and Mapping. “All of the ways people share information now – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare and others – will also be targeted to distribute our content. The outstanding quality of our local content and its relevance to users are among the key elements that will drive this effort.”
AOL’s key local assets include:
Patch – AOL’s Hyper-Local Platform
Patch is a highly-acclaimed technology-driven local content and advertising platform. Patch currently operates nearly 40 community-focused sites serving towns in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and California, where five more communities – Brookfield, Danville, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and San Ramon – have now joined the network. The first Patch site in Massachusetts will go live at the end of March, with up to 15 more launching in the following three months. Patch is making an important investment in local journalism by placing professional editors in each town it serves to encourage community participation and provide original, trusted coverage for each individual town.
Expanding to Major Metro Areas with AOL’s City’s Best
AOL’s City’s Best guide features the best entertainment options that each city has to offer – everything from Best Burgers and Best Pizza to Best Dance Clubs and Best Happy Hour. AOL intends to relaunch and revitalize the City’s Best service in 25 major metro markets in the third quarter of 2010. City’s Best will utilize AOL’s scaled content systems to create high-quality, relevant content for the cities it covers, in addition to leveraging local resources to provide comprehensive, structured, high-quality listings and information.
Geo-Targeting 100 Million Consumers to Provide a Better Local Experience
AOL plans to expand geo-targeted local content to its more than 100 million* monthly domestic consumers during 2010 through AOL.com, its homepage and a gateway to AOL’s more than 80 premium-branded and niche interest sites. Using its proprietary Relegence technology, which monitors, indexes and filters thousands of news sources, AOL will better serve consumers with a relevant and timely local content experience. Content can be tailored to the user’s location either through automatic discovery of the IP address or by individual customization by zip code.
AOL Inc. (NYSE:AOL) is a leading global Web services company with an extensive suite of brands and offerings and a substantial worldwide audience. AOL’s business spans online content, products and services that the company offers to consumers, publishers and advertisers. AOL is focused on attracting and engaging consumers and providing valuable online advertising services on both AOL’s owned and operated properties and third-party websites. In addition, AOL operates one of the largest Internet subscription access services in the United States, which serves as a valuable distribution channel for AOL’s consumer offerings.