We now know who won the "Bobbing for Bebo" contest. Time Warner's
AOL may seem like a dark horse in this race. It has made acquisitive nibbles in the past, but this is a big bite for a fallen Web darling whose parent company's share price has been stuck in the teens for as long as the boy bands genre.
England's Telegraph reported last year that Yahoo!
If the list of thwarted suitors appears eclectic, then you probably need to brush up a bit on Bebo. The social networking site may not be at the level of market leader MySpace and Facebook, but it's the top dog in England. That explains the BT interest. Bebo has also been a pioneer in farming out content creation. Whether it's Kate Modern or Sony's
Time will tell who is getting the better end of the deal. Bebo is more popular now than when Yahoo! was supposedly sniffing around at higher price points a year ago. Bebo has 40 million free members. A year ago, it was serving up more than 5 billion monthly page views to its 31 million members.
Bigger site, cheaper price? Believe it. Social networking has been a tough nut to monetize. Even Google
Bebo is like flypaper to engaged youths. The average visitor will go through a whopping 78 pages in a day. That obviously isn't the ideal sticky demographic for lucrative paid search advertising, but it's just right for the display advertising world.
Bebo struck a multiyear advertising deal with Yahoo! last year, just as rumors of an outright buyout by Yahoo! began to fade away. How AOL's purchase of Bebo will affect that arrangement is not clear, though it's safe to say that AOL will take over the marketing reins as quickly as possible.
It's a big bite for AOL. Let's hope it chews carefully.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders if a social network is more network than social. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.