Marketing Pilgrim's "Blogging" Channel

Sponsor Marketing Pilgrim's Blogging Channel today! Get in front of some of the most influential readers in the Internet and social media marketing industry. Contact us today!

AOL Buys Sphere; Pays Less than $400 Per Content Partner



How would you like to create a blog widget and then sell it less than three years later for $25 million? Ah yes, the dream of all internet marketers.

Well, Sphere–the creator of the Sphere Related Content Widget–was just acquired by AOL for a rumored $25 million. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself one of two questions (maybe both):

  1. I’ve never heard of Sphere, what does it do?
  2. What does AOL want with Sphere?

That first question is easy to answer. You’ve probably seen Sphere in action, but perhaps never paid much attention to it. Here’s how the company describes itself:

Sphere connects your current articles to contextually relevant content from your archives as well as from Blog Posts, Media Articles, Video, Photos, and Ads from across the Web.

Among its 69,000+ content partners you’ll find the WSJ, Reuters, Time, and TechCrunch.

Still not ringing a bell. OK, your last reminder is a screenshot of Sphere’s widget in action:

OK, so now the light bulb’s come on, let’s move on to the next question. What does AOL want with Sphere?

Well, to answer that question, we turn to AOL for an explanation:

“Our focus at AOL is providing consumers relevant content wherever they are on the Web, and Sphere’s capabilities fit in perfectly with this effort. Not only will it let us enhance content on our own sites, it will let us distribute our content across Sphere’s growing third-party publisher network,” said Ron Grant, President and COO of AOL. “In addition, this acquisition provides AOL with access to advertising inventory across Sphere’s network, while growing its reach to content publishers via the widget.”

Some quick math suggests that AOL’s just picked up close to 70k publishing partners for less than $400 each! AOL’s content on the WSJ and TechCrunch for $400? Bargain!

Of course, the real question is just how often do people click on the Sphere “related content” links? I know I did once–just out of curiosity–but haven’t clicked on one since. So how many engaged readers, AOL is going to get its content in front of, is a mystery–at least to those of us outside of the deal–but at $400 a site, it’s pocket change for AOL.

  • http://www.tealmontgomery.com Steve Teal

    Kudos to AOL on acquiring a great investment. I’m sure now they will sure to be making more buzz about Sphere as AOL is heavy on marketing. I too have only used Sphere once in curiosity but after reading your post it seems to be a very interesting and promising widget. ~Steve

  • http://blog.quintura.com Yakov

    That’s a very good question on how many people really click on those links. I guess it’s not many. Otherwise they would disclose that stats

  • http://www.seoresults.co.za Web Marketing Man

    Sphere is something new to me, but will after checking it out I must say that $25 million is good money for a widget. One of the tips and tricks one will encounter in almost any SEO or Web Marketing related guide is to come up with a cool widget. This serves as a prime example. How useful it truly is, that’s debatable, but with AOL throwing their weight behind it the outcome should be interesting.

  • http://mp3leben.com Tiffany

    I’ve never clicked the links too…I am not sure if AOL has decided something right.

  • http://sphere.com tony conrad

    Hi All – you need to get clicking!!

    Andy – thanks for sharing the news. We’re thrilled about the fit and believe it will enable us to accelerate our growth even faster. Yakov – we’re actually quite transparent about our performance, we publish details on our blos (sphere.com/blog) – we just did a post on Q1 performance, you can see the detail here: http://www.sphere.com/blog/2008/04/14/q108-wrap-up/

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @tony – thanks for stopping by with the links. The “455 million monetizeable page-views” is that the number of clicks? Care to share what % of people click on the Sphere icon and what % then click on a link? :-)

  • http://www.forumistan.net forumistan

    AOL hasnt decide something right.

  • Pingback: This Weeks Must Reads in Search Marketing April 18, 2008