AOL Partners for Chinese-Language AOL.com

AOL, the recently-renamed online operation of Time Warner Inc., has formed a partnership with China’s Shanghai Media Group to produce a Chinese-language version of the company’s AOL.com Internet portal site aimed at Chinese speakers in the United States. The pairing would mark AOL’s first venture with a Chinese firm since the company withdrew from the Chinese market in 2003.

AOL launched a beta version of its Chinese-language portal site in February 2006, featuring Web search and email features, along with news feeds and blogs from North America, Europe, and Asia, plus broadband video content of popular Chinese shows and sporting events.

Under the new agreement, Shanghai Media Group’s broadband content division will provide additional content to U.S. company MediaZone, which currently produces content for AOL’s Chinese portal. The material produced by Shanghai Media Group is not expected to be impacted by China’s Internet censorship policies, as the material is being produced for audiences outside China, and will at first focus on relatively innocuous content. For now, the joint effort will focus on creating free services to built momentum for AOL’s portal, but the companies hope to offer free-based Chinese-language services in the future.

AOL has not announced any plans to re-enter the Chinese market directly. AOL stormed optimistically into China during the mid-1990s and, in partnership with Lenovo, tried again in 2001, only to eventually withdraw from the Chinese market entirely in 2003 after failing to gain traction.

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