ABC News and Yahoo! announced today that they are teaming up in a "strategic online news alliance" they hope will reach 100 million U.S. users a month. And they're not starting small: George Stephanopoulos will interview President Obama at 2:35 this afternoon for a webcast on ABCNews.com and Yahoo.com. The partnership will make ABC News, according to the press release, "the premier news provider on Yahoo! News." The press release says that Yahoo! will have editorial control over its sites and ABC News will have editorial control over its sites (ABCNews.com and GoodMorningAmerica.com).
This partnership, in part because of its sheer size and reach, will be inevitably compared to the teaming up of AOL and the Huffington Post, despite the fact that that was structured as an acquisition of the latter by the former and this is being called a "strategic alliance," a more diplomacy-inspired term. Moreover, that was two existing online properties, and this is a primarily online-driven outlet teaming up with a primarily television-driven one.
But television news and online news have teamed up before, most notably at MSNBC.com, a joint project between Microsoft and NBC. (Microsoft is no longer involved in MSNBC, the cable channel, which is a separate company from the web site.) The cross-branding of NBC content and MSNBC.com content is pervasive and sometimes perplexing — all of MSNBC.com's entertainment content, for instance, is now branded as part of the site for NBC's Today.
More than selling the partnership itself, the two companies are focused on the new online content produced especially for this purpose that will be available through Yahoo's "global technology platform." In addition to the Newsmakers series that will debut with the Stephanopoulos-Obama interview, there will be an online series with Christine Amanpour and one with Bill Weir, Nightline's co-anchor, focusing on technology and innovation.
How much interest the new content generates may well drive initial reactions to the agreement. Ordinary site users likely won't care about the behind-the-scenes changes to how things are financed and branded, and there isn't an obvious celebrity angle, the way there was when Arianna Huffington essentially took over managing content at AOL. Yahoo! has certainly had its share of negative press, and as recently as last week was being casually referred to as "beleaguered." Some fresh content (like, for instance, a live interview with a newsmaker) is likely welcome. For ABC, there's the promise of Yahoo!'s enormously well-trafficked news portal, which will now send people plenty of ABC News content.