February 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

Martha Stewart expands online in deal with wedding marketplace

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia announced a series of transactions with WeddingWire, including taking a stake of about 40% in the fledgling online shopping service for engaged couples.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. announced this week a series of transactions with WeddingWire, including taking a stake of about 40% in the fledgling online shopping service for engaged couples. Separately, Martha Stewart reported that its Internet-related revenue increased by a third in the fourth quarter.

WeddingWire.com, which went live in May, offers visitors access to 30,000 local suppliers of wedding cakes, catering, invitations and other services nationwide. WeddingWire.com averages 250,000 unique visitors per month, even though it is only actively advertising in about a half-dozen major markets around the country, a spokeswoman says.

WeddingWire’s technology will be added to the wedding section of MarthaStewart.com, while content from the Martha Stewart homemaking site will be added to WeddingWire.com. Martha Stewart will also sell online advertising for WeddingWire.com, and the two companies will share the revenue.

"By investing in WeddingWire, we are assembling a robust online offering with a proven toolset to enhance our digital weddings content and complement what is already the category`s premier print magazine," says Wenda Harris Millard, president, media, at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. "We are impressed by WeddingWire`s superior online platform and see great opportunities to leverage its expertise across our Internet sites and bring similar tools and features to our other lifestyle content verticals. This is also a tremendous opportunity for our advertisers to reach couples engaged in the process of planning their wedding."

The deal is part of Martha Stewart’s strategy of extending its online presence and expanding its wedding franchise online and in print, the company says.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia also reported online growth in the fourth quarter in releasing its financial results this week. Internet-related revenue rose 33% to $7.2 million from $5.4 million in the same quarter the year before. The company did not break out how much of the revenue came from advertising versus merchandise sales, but did say that ad revenue was up 60% in the quarter.

Page views increased by 30%, 40% and 50% during the three months of the fourth quarter, respectively, compared to Q4 2006, the company says. That trend continued into January 2008, when page views were up about 35% over last year.

Operating income for the online business was $700,000 in the fourth quarter, up from $200,000 in the same period in 2006.

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