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AOL's Hub closes

The online giant shuts down its two-year-old entertainment service aimed at college-aged males.

The Hub is getting the ax.

America Online (AOL) today said its entertainment service geared toward college-aged males is slated for elimination. The Hub's site and its presence on AOL will be removed by the end of the day, according to the company.

Launched two years ago and produced in a partnership with New Line Cinema, the Hub is one of several victims of AOL's move away from creating original content and toward aggregating content from partners.

AOL last month laid off half AOL makes online waves the staff of its Entertainment Asylum site, along with most of the staff for its WorldPlay interactive games unit. Those 105 job cuts came as part of AOL's plan, also announced last month, to fold content arm AOL Studios into the rest of the company.

"AOL has started to weed out content ventures," said Jupiter Communications analyst Patrick Keane. "It's expensive to create original content, and AOL has had a kind of 'I've had it up to here' syndrome after throwing a lot of money down the hole with these ventures."

While pulling away from original content creation, AOL has continued signing on important content partners, such as Standard & Poor's for financial data and Bloomberg for business news.

Company spokesperson Pam McGraw countered that AOL is continuing to create its own content and that entertainment programming--including Entertainment Asylum, women's site Electra, and local guide Digital City--is performing well for the company.

"Entertainment Asylum has had up to 1 million page views per day," McGraw said. "Digital City New York, launched in January, has also hit 1 million page views, and we're going to continue to roll out the Digital City product to other cities throughout the year."

But staff cuts also have hit AOL's Digital City. Late last month, the unit suffered 80 layoffs.

AOL continues to generate original content through WorldPlay, Real Fans, and proprietary site Love@AOL, McGraw added.

The Hub, whose offerings included such racy titles as the "Arousal Guide" and "Luscious Lists," may have proved difficult to market from within the family-oriented, mainstream image AOL has tried to project.

In addition to that incongruity, the Hub was faced with targeting an audience that is more Web-savvy than the typical AOL user. Also, since most college students have Net access through their schools, that group is less likely to have an AOL membership.

McGraw maintained that AOL will continue to value the "young adult" market, and noted that the company was reevaluating content from the Hub for inclusion in other parts of AOL.

McGraw did concede, however, that college-aged males were not the service's bread and butter.

"There's not enough of a market for the type of niche that the Hub targeted," she said.