TAP recently ran a story on Radio One founder and CEO Cathy Hughes, who has been in the spotlight as of late because of the controversy surrounding the Performance Rights Act and the financial pressures experienced by the broadcast industry due to the recession.
Despite its namesake, it’s important to note that this publicly-traded company has more to show for itself than just radio. With over 53 stations in 16 markets, it is a dominant force in the broadcast industry but as a lesser known fact, it includes a digital division, Interactive One, and also has a 50% stake in the cable station TV One.
Although Interactive One was formed two and a half years ago, it made itself known in 2008 when it acquired Blackplanet.com (as part of Community Connect Inc) for $38 million. “It was a strategic deal for us,” said Tom Newman, President of Interactive One. “It was and still remains the largest black social networking site.”
The strategy behind the deal was to merge BlackPlanet.com’s user activity and engagement with Radio One’s marketing muscle and sales capacities. comScore estimates that the 11 year-old BlackPlanet site attracts 2 million unique monthly visitors; however, Interactive’s internal numbers reflect higher metrics according to Newman.
“Comscore undercounts the black audience,” he said. “They put that we have two million unique monthly visitors on blackplanet.com. Our internal numbers say we have a much higher number. We’re trying to work with these companies to help them be more representative and help us more accurately reflect our audience.” Althouch comScore estimates that Interactive One sites collectively attract 4 million monthly unique visitors, the internal numbers from Omniture indicate 8 million monthly unique visitors and 8 billion annual pageviews, according to the director of strategic marketing Maria Weaver Watson.
Blackplanet is central to the division’s portfolio of digital properties which include GiantLife, Hello Beautiful, NewsOne, The UrbanDaily, and Elevat8. These properties cover everything from news and politics (NewsOne) to spirituality (Elev8) and the variation is part of Interactive’s methodology to conquer every niche of its targeted audience. “We believe that the market of African Americans online,which is somewhere over 20 million users right now, is a very diverse audience and we have to have a diverse set of products and sites to serve that audience. We have content sites that are targeted to different demographics.”
Interactive One has especially high hopes for its women’s lifestyle property, Hello Beautiful. “We think it has a lot of potential as it serves an underserved market online and we think there is a lot of running space there,” said Newman. “Even though the performances of all these sites have been great, that’s an example of a site we’re going to hope outperforms the others over the next year or so.”
Today, Interactive One contributes to less than ten percent of Radio One’s overall revenue but Newman is certain that it will continue to build upon its dominance. “Putting together Black Planet and Radio One assets, we think we’re clearly number one no matter what measurements we use,” he said. “We’ll have more and more sites continue to target different aspects of our audience.”
Radio One will release its 2009 fiscal year results and hold its annual conference call for investors on March 31st.