The search by book publishers to find ways to make money on the Web has led reference and children's book publisher Publications International Ltd. to strike a deal with HowStuffWorks that gives the online publishing company exclusive online rights to all of PIL's content. In making the agreement, PIL is betting that it will make more money by having its content displayed in a more targeted fashion through the Web site than by making it part of Google's or other search companies' digital book projects.Through what both parties describe as a strategic alliance, PIL will adapt its book content into articles that fit into the different subject categories posted on the HSW site. For HSW's health channel, for example, all PIL content about Lyme disease would be distilled into a comprehensive article, explained Richard Maddrell, president of PIL. "I like the way HSW disseminates targeted information," said Maddrell, adding that PIL is "looking to get away from displaying content without context." That approach, however, doesn't mean someone searching for Lyme disease on Google wouldn't end up at the HSW site. According to HSW founder Jeff Arnold, most Google searches for a category covered by HSW wind up with HSN on Google's first page of results.

Although the financial details of the agreement haven't been released, Arnold called PIL "an equity partner" that will be paid a royalty for creating HSW-appropriate content. All 350 PIL editors will be available to work on repurposing the more than 10,000 titles in PIL's backlist into HSW content. HSW generates its revenue through ad sales.

The strength of HSW, Arnold said, "is we understand how people search" and the company has developed a search architecture that takes advantage of that expertise. (Arnold was the founder of WebMD, and he acquired HSW in 2003 as part of his new holding company Convex Group). What HSW has lacked is content, something that the deal with PIL addresses. To date, HSW, which has about 75 employees, has written about 4,000 articles, but with the addition of PIL, Arnold estimates that number will skyrocket to 300,000 in three years.

The first PIL material to appear on HSW will be developed from PIL's Consumer Guide and Mobil Travel Guide properties. Both Arnold and Maddrell said they expect to soon add more images to the library, and Arnold said HSW will support future "content acquisitions" made by PIL.

The deal has also affected PIL and HSW publishing programs. Because PIL has extensive children's, cookbook and home improvement lists, HSW will add online channels in those areas. PIL will broaden its print program into new areas, beginning with the publication of financial guides. Maddrell said the deal will also facilitate the publication of premium books by PIL, in some cases using HSW material. HSW, which has published four books with Wiley, will move all future book projects to PIL, Arnold said. The agreement also gives HSW the right to adapt content for PDAs and cellphones.

PIL, which owns much of the content it publishes, had been approached many times for its online rights, said Maddrell, who explained that he chose to partner with HSW because "I really believe the combination with HowStuffWorks will result in one plus one equaling three."