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A+E Launches Asterisk Internet-Media Brand with New Spins on History (Exclusive)

A+E Networks wants to make history seem less like homework — with something that feels more like BuzzFeed.

The media company, whose properties include the History cable channel, this week is launching Asterisk: a website featuring stories examining contemporary culture and entertainment through the lens of history. The site is aimed at a younger demo, with articles that include video, photos, quizzes and lists (hallmarks of BuzzFeed content), animated GIFs and other content types.

“Most people are not searching for history on a daily basis,” said Evan Silverman, senior VP of digital media at A+E Networks. “But they enjoy getting history in their lives in a fun and entertaining way… Asterisk is looking at life and culture through a historical filter.”

One example of Asterisk’s approach: an article comparing LBJ and Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian politician from Netflix’s “House of Cards,” which concludes the real American president was the bigger badass. Meanwhile, the website’s lead story Monday promises five example of real historical events that are more shocking than anything that’s happened on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“People tend to think about history as Abraham Lincoln, but we can provide context to contemporary people, trends or places,” Silverman said.

According to Silverman, Asterisk will focus on “native advertising,” which refers to sponsored content that’s interleaved with the rest of a site’s material. At launch, the company does not have any marketing partners, but A+E says those deals are in the works.

Asterisk, at theasterisktoday.com, is organized around 10 categories: life skills, sports, food and drink, people, ideas, arts and entertainment, work, style, travel and tech. To develop and launch the site, A+E worked with RED Interactive Agency, a digital consultancy whose investors include WME. Currently, Asterisk has a small dedicated staff of fewer than 10 employees across content, design, and production

While A+E owns the History channel — which launched on cable in 1995 — Asterisk will not be associated with the TV network.

“We think, in order for Asterisk to succeed, it needs to be independent and authentic to the audience,” Silverman said.

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