Hearst digital unit buys eCrush.com


NEW YORK -- Hearst Corp.'s Hearst Magazines Digital Media unit has acquired Chicago-based eCrush.com Inc., which operates social networking sites for teens and young adults.

Overall, more than 1 million unique visitors hit the eCrush network sites each month, with 90% of visitors in the 13-19 years age range, according to the companies. They did not disclose financial details of the transaction.

Privately-held Hearst has invested in digital media startups, such as Sling Media and Brightcove, via its venture arm.

eCrush's flagship site allows "users to find out anonymously if someone they like feels the same about them" and has reached more than 2.4 million registered users since its launch on Valentine's Day 1999.

The company also operates eSpin, a digital version of spin-the-bottle that allows youths to flirt and make new friends online via a profile-based site. Launched in 2001, it has more than 1 million active users, according to the companies.

Also covered by the deal is photo-rating site HighSchoolStyleBoard.

"As social networking and interactivity online become an integral part of teenagers' lives, we want to be everywhere they turn," said Chuck Cordray, vp and general manager of Hearst Magazines Digital Media. "The addition of the eCRUSH Network enables Hearst to broaden our presence in the online arena for teens and become a true destination for everything from fashion and beauty to advice and community."

Hearst is the "perfect fit for the eCrush audience, as well as for our advertisers," said eCrush president Amy Gibby.

Later this month, Hearst said it will debut MyPromShopper.com, a prom-planning destination leveraging its three core teen magazine brands, CosmoGIRL!, Seventeen and Teen.

Next month, Hearst will launch new Web sites for those three magazines, with more new offerings planned as the year unfolds and the company pushes through its digital growth strategy.

Hearst said marketers will now be able to advertise on any of its teen sites and buy packages across its network of brands.