AOL’s Latest Content Moves: CliffsNotes and goviral


Students have been turning to CliffsNotes since 1958 to cut corners on study time, as promised by the tagline: ‘learn faster, study better, score higher.’

In a fitting match, the man who gave us Survivor, The Apprentice and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Mark Burnett, is teaming up with AOL, publisher John Wiley & Sons and indie film company Coalition Films to produce a series of video shorts based on the CliffsNotes Literature Guides.

“Video is core to AOL’s consumer strategy and our goal is to build and partner to produce the best video experiences online,” commented AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong in a statement. Now, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens stories will be produced as “humorous, irreverent” animated shorts for the content-voracious AOL.[more]

“CliffsNotes is perfect for the short form production format of the web,” said Burnett.  “Young Americans are going to love these irreverent, comedic, educational and entertaining versions of the great books.”

CliffsNotes was started in a Nebraska basement by Cliff Hillegass and his wife with sixteen titles by William Shakespeare, and eventually acquired by Wiley in 2001. Keeping up with the times, they went online in 1999, now publish Test Preps for every test imaginable, and recently launched an iPhone app.

This latest partnership is one in a series of AOL’s strategic pursuit of content deals that includes deals with Heidi Klum, Endemol, Vuguru, Ben Silverman’s Electus, Next New Networks, Telepictures Productions and the Ellen DeGeneres Show Web site and  

AOL is also pursuing strategic acquisitions. To that end, AOL Europe just bought online video network goviral,  for $74.1 million. As noted in the video below, goviral joins AOL’s portfolio that includes StudioNow, 5min Media, TechCrunch, Thing Labs, Pictela and most recently, 

AOL is clearly recreating itself for a new generation of online consumer. So if you are surviving while mastering apprentice skills and like to watch videos online, AOL’s latest partnerships will definitely make you smarter than a fifth grader.