AOL's new CEO Tim Armstrong has spent the past few months reorganizing the company and snatching up unemployed journalists. Under the former Google exec, AOL has gotten more headlines for its publishing business than its advertising platform, and according to Armstrong that should continue.
Speaking at the IAB MIXX conference in New York Monday, Armstrong laid out his plans: AOL wants to be the Disney of the digital era.
While Armstrong notes the importance of search in the online space over the last decade and going forward, he thinks the next growth area will be content. (And Google would seem to agree - the search giant just launched its own display ad exchange last week).
"We basically looked at different phases of the Internet. How do people get online, what do they do," Armstrong. "Content is the future of what is going to drive AOL."
Coming in to analyze AOL, Armstrong noted that the company was in a great place to develop a strong publishing business. And while the dial up business may not be the future of the company, the traffic it has provided AOL properties is an asset that Armstrong plans to exploit.
The focus of AOL's strategy going forward depends on filtering and distributing its content in the most personalized and efficient way. Says Armstrong: "The future of content is going to be driven by very sophisticated content management systems."
That is how the company plans to tie in advertising. By dovetailing ad plays more closely to well tailored content, he plans to increase brand interest in AOL and its properties: "The most fulfiilling thing about our strategy so far, is that brands love it."
And Armstrong's ambitions are not small: "We want to build the world's best content at the fullest scale."
What does that mean exactly? Armstrong sees himself following in the footsteps of Walt Disney. He wants AOL to be "Disneyesque — a brand people trust - and end up with a brand portfolio that is large and starts from a programming perspective "
With AOL going into its 25th year of operations, Armstrong wants to emulate Disney's attention to detail with its content and become a brand trusted for its quality control.
On other fronts, Armstrong is interested in local advertising, saying that he has seen a real lack of investment in that space but it will be a big area for AOL. And while dial up may not be a growth business, AOL Instant Messenger will be moving forward. It will be incorporated into a product called AOL Livestream that will organize different online messaging platforms in one place.
While Armstrong acknowledges the frustrations of the current economy, his interest in snapping up journalistic talent during the current media dryspell has not been temporary. He says:
"If the revolution is starting, the revolution for us is content and we're going to make a really large play there."