Beyond belief

The half-life of a digital strategy

After about a month of dancing, NewsCorp. announced at the end of June that it was selling Beliefnet.com to a new entity, BN Media.  Behind the new firm are Cross Bridge Media, a provider of inspirational videos, and Affinity4, a web marketer.

In reporting the sale, the Los Angeles Times noted that Beliefnet “no longer fits with [NewsCorp’s] digital strategy.”  Much of the coverage that preceded the sale focused on NewsCorp’s steady divestiture of a series of unrelated digital assets, including Rotten Tomatoes and Photobucket.

I think the problem with Beliefnet is not that the digital strategy changed, but that NewsCorp never really had one.  Its efforts focused on integrating Beliefnet with Zondervan, HarperFaith and Fox Faith, using Beliefnet as a distribution channel for physical product.

In pushing its physical products, NewsCorp may have undermined the sense of community that was a hallmark of Beliefnet as an independent entity.  Traffic dropped significantly: in the nearly three years that NewsCorp ran BeliefNet, it lost 400,000 monthly uniques (14%).

Unfortunately, the acquiring firm has a profile that does not suggest a big shift in strategy.  In its reports, the L.A. Times also noted that “fewer than half of the 50 people who work at Beliefnet are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the acquisition.”  If those departing are heavily drawn from the content side of the business, Beliefnet’s next half-life will be even shorter.

Full disclosure: We provided consulting services to Beliefnet in 2006 and early 2007, before the firm was acquired by NewsCorp.  The content of this post relies entirely on published reports.





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