Net Effect: Like, OMG! Surfers dig Yahoo dirt

3-month-old gossip site already out draws some established rivals

NEW YORK -- In the crowded field of celebrity news Web sites, Yahoo's OMG! has managed to make inroads thanks to its parent company's vast audience and a partnership with NBC's "Access Hollywood," a recognized brand in the field.

OMG! launched June 11, and it had 3.7 million unique visitors by the end of its first month, Nielsen//NetRatings said. The audience grew more than 80% by the end of July and finished August in the same spot with 6.7 million visitors.

The site, however, ranks behind AOL's, which had 9.4 million visitors in August, but was ahead of and E! Online with 5.8 million and 3 million visitors, respectively.

Although OMG! and TMZ both owe a good deal of their success to their highly trafficked parent portals, the sites have fundamental differences. OMG! aggregates its news from the Associated Press, Reuters and "Access," which an NBC Uni executive described as its "premier" partner, while TMZ has its own team of reporters, who have broken many of the more lascivious gossip stories in the past year.

Another key difference is that, by one account at least, OMG! readers don't appear to be hard-core gossip fans and many times seem to click on the site while passing through Yahoo. According to Web research firm Compete, 63% of OMG!'s visitors from its launch through early September didn't visit another gossip site, and they also spent less time at the site than visitors to People, TMZ or E!

This makes sense in the context of "Access," which, according to David Epstein, vp digital strategy at NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, defines itself as "entertainment news" rather than "gossip." He said "Access" holds itself to the same journalistic guidelines as "NBC Nightly News" and stays away from the more "salacious" and "slash-and-burn" aspects of celebrity journalism.

"Entertainment news is different than gossip," Epstein said. "It's not out there to take people down."

He said, however, that "Access" is not OMG!'s only partner, and at times the site decides to publish pictures and stories that wouldn't get covered by the show. But the opportunity to be viewed by Yahoo's audience, which in August numbered nearly 111 million, makes the partnership a "great marriage," Epstein said.

Nielsen//NetRatings is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.