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Hearst Corp. acquires UGO Networks

Hearst Corp. is set to acquire UGO Networks Inc., owner of Web-based men’s lifestyle brands.

Content on the UGO flagship site, UGO.com, includes news and commentary on television, movies, music, sports, women and comic books. The site has more than 11 million unique visitors per month.

UGO.com is entirely supported by advertising revenue and hosts high-touch advertisements from brands in fields such as electronics, telecommunications and autos. The company has retained its own advertising sales team separate from Hearst’s, in a move to continue growing its advertising base.

“Having the Hearst brand name behind you can only help in establishing relationships with advertisers,” said J. Moses, UGO founder/CEO.

“We’re almost like a creative ad agency in the ads we put on our site,” he continued. “We expect to fully utilize the technology of the Internet as well as the greater resources that Hearst provides. We’re definitely not a banner shop.”

Males age 18-34, with what Moses calls “gamer DNA,” constitute the prime UGO reader demographic.

“We’re about serving content to people with gamer DNA – people who have grown up with games and see the world through that prism,” Moses said. “So we have internally produced content and third-party content that reaches them.”

Though Hearst (www.hearst.com) has invested in online media before, including iVillage and Broadcast.com, the UGO acquisition is its first purchase of an online company. Hearst executives hope that the 9-year-old company will provide a base site and Internet experience with which Hearst can build other digital media offerings.

Hearst owns 12 daily and 31 weekly print newspapers and about 200 magazines. The media company also owns 29 television stations and has part ownership of some cable networks, including Lifetime, the History Channel and ESPN.

Although print generally seems to be giving way to online offerings, Moses expressed enthusiasm for working with a print giant like Hearst.

“We weren’t excited about just joining a large stable of online holdings or being thrown into the kettle with lots of other brands,” Moses explained. “We love the idea of being the foundation for its step into this business, and we’re very excited about UGO being the flagship brand.”

UGO will remain intact as a brand and will continue to run as a separate entity under Moses and UGO president Michael McCracken. Moses said plans for UGO.com include the addition of user-generated video content.

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