Yahoo! enters brand land

Netco builds 'brand universe'

Yahoo! is readying a new strategy to engage media’s biggest brands online, with or without their participation.

Netco has identified more than 100 properties that are the most popular, or fastest-growing, with its users and is building what it calls a “brand universe” Web site around each one. Set to launch throughout 2007, they will bring content from throughout Yahoo!’s network into one destination for fans.

First example, an already launched “brand universe” for Nintendo’s new Wii console, includes articles from Yahoo! Games, fan pictures from photo site Flickr, purchase options from Yahoo! Shopping, user questions and responses from Yahoo! Answers and links to outside articles from bookmarking site

Netco hopes to partner with companies behind the properties it selects to obtain extra content and potentially send some traffic their way, but the “brand universe” pages won’t hinge on their cooperation.

“We’re not replacing what others are doing and we’re not looking for exclusive content, so we hope companies will want to work with us to make their brands part of Yahoo!,” said Vince Broady, head of entertainment, games and youth properties, who is spearheading the effort. “But we don’t believe we have to have the participation of the brand owners.”

Netco, which is currently in talks with or plans to soon approach companies behind each of the brands it has identified, is selling the approach as a way to maintain consumer awareness between major events such as the launch of a sequel or a DVD.

Yahoo! will benefit from offering Web searchers and advertisers a central destination for many of the world’s biggest media brands.

Company isn’t revealing the properties it has selected beyond the Wii, due to the sensitivity of ongoing talks, but names like “American Idol” and “The Lord of the Rings” are almost certain to be among them.

It’s a shift in strategy for Yahoo!, which previously tried to engage media companies by becoming their exclusive online partner. It did land a few TV shows, such as “Entertainment Tonight” and “60 Minutes,” through that approach. However, with media congloms increasingly investing in their own Web efforts, it’s becoming tough to find takers.

Broady was set to announce the “brand universe” plan today in a keynote address at the DemmX digital media conference.

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