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AOL Documentary Series With PBS Features Hillary Clinton

AOL Inc., reaching for female viewers it sees as crucial to growth, debuted a documentary series on feminism featuring U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Facebook Inc.’s Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey.

The series, called “Makers: Women Who Make America” and made available online today, was produced with the Public Broadcasting Service and shot by filmmaker Dyllan McGee. The website for the series is streaming clips of interviews with at least 60 women.

They’re a mix of executives, artists and leaders, including playwright Eve Ensler, Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, Google Inc.’s Marissa Mayer and 15-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson.

“Women’s content is a major strategic focus for us,” Tim Armstrong, CEO of New York-based AOL, said in an interview. “We knew the stories profiled on the ‘Makers’ platform would be stories our users would love.” Armstrong has turned AOL’s focus to three groups of audiences: female readers, local readers and what he calls “influencers.”

McGee, 41, met Armstrong through a friend in 2010 as the filmmaker was working to get more funding for her series on feminism. McGee originally set out to document the life of Gloria Steinem, who declined to participate in that project.

“Gloria said it should be a bigger story,” McGee said in an interview. The filmmaker shifted to multiple subjects, and Steinem agreed to appear in the revised programming.

PBS Viewing

The website promoting the series was designed to allow viewers to arrange interviews in any sequence they choose. A traditional three-hour documentary version will air on PBS and its affiliates early next year.

Armstrong said creating “premium original content,” including videos, will revive revenue growth. The “Makers” documentary is “one of the best video experiences on the web and video is a huge AOL priority,” he said.

There will be increasing availability of documentaries online, boosted by digital technology, said McGee, whose projects include a Senator Ted Kennedy documentary for Time Warner Inc.’s HBO.

“This is the future of documentaries,” McGee said.

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