Monday, December 7, 2009

AOL: the second time around

This week AOL becomes an independent company again and few old media outlets share their opinions on the matter:

WSJ: "...AOL, which is poised to reemerge as an independent entity later this week, albeit in an online world that has passed it by."

AP: "Marriage of old and new media is ending in divorce."

The Hollywood Reporter: "Time Warner is set to spin off AOL this week in a move that finally will undo the much-maligned AOL-TW merger."

Canadian Press has the most interesting take on this:
AOL also is trying to produce online material far more cheaply. It plans to launch dozens of new sites next year and populate much of them with work done by freelancers. These freelancers will be paid by the post - some with a flat rate, some with a share of revenue based on the amount of traffic the post generates.

Ned May, an analyst with Outsell Inc., believes AOL can use this low-cost method to experiment with building lots of new sites and see what sticks with viewers.

To stimulate the process, AOL is counting on a content-management system it calls Seed. It shows information about the kinds of things people are searching for online so that writers and editors can quickly create material people presumably want to read.

For example, a site might traditionally write about Halloween costumes in mid-September, but search data showed that people were looking for costumes in August, said Bill Wilson, AOL's head of media.
John Letzing from the WSJ best describes why the old AOL was so important: "AOL was primarily a dial-up Internet access provider, with a portal highly dependent on its subscribers." Precisely. For many Americans, AOL was their first taste of the Internet. For this reason alone, AOL deserves credit.