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News Corp. to buy religious website

December 05, 2007|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

News Corp. on Tuesday agreed to buy Beliefnet, a popular website devoted to religious issues and social networking, adding to an Internet portfolio that includes such decidedly secular sites as MySpace.com and AskMen.com.

Unlike News Corp.'s other Internet properties, however, Beliefnet will be folded into the company's Fox Entertainment Group's digital arm.

That division, led by Dan Fawcett, is focused on using the Internet to promote and distribute Fox Entertainment's movies and television shows. MySpace and most of the company's other websites are part of a separate division, Fox Interactive Media, which includes News Corp.'s Internet properties.

Terms of the transaction weren't disclosed.

Fawcett said News Corp. would use its technology to broaden Beliefnet's appeal with video and other new functions. It also intends to use the website to promote two religious and spiritual-oriented book imprints -- Zondervan and HarperOne -- owned by News Corp.'s HarperCollins unit.

Another strong area of potential is cross-marketing opportunities between Beliefnet and Fox Faith, a year-old division within the Fox studio that targets the Christian audience with religious-themed movies. Although Fox Faith has had a mixed track record at the box office, several of its titles have sold well in DVD.

Fawcett said Beliefnet could also be used to cross-promote some shows on the National Geographic Channel, in which News Corp. holds a stake.

New York-based Beliefnet has 55 employees, about a third of them in editorial jobs, said co-founder Steven Waldman.

Dependent on advertising and not affiliated with any denomination, it has won several awards for its content, including the 2007 National Magazine Award for general excellence online.

Waldman said the operation earned a profit in some months.

Beliefnet had 2.8 million unique visitors in October, down 12% from a year earlier, according to the Internet measuring service ComScore Media Metrix.

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joseph.menn@latimes.com

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