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Make no doubt about it: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong had his work cut out the moment he became the leader of one of the most storied names in technology in the past two decades.
The former head of ad sales for Google is tasked with nothing less than to revitalize a brand that in many ways represents what the internet once was, and perhaps represents little of what most of us think it will be. Increasingly, Armstrong's task looks impossible to carry out successfully.
AOL's "startaround" plan, led by CEO Tim Armstrong, relies heavily on display advertising. Over the past year, the portal has stepped up its content creation business, invested in talent, and tried to increase the quality of its sites. All this is to attract more advertising dollars. Starting next month, the company will unveil new - and larger - ad formats, designed to draw more attention from readers.
But the question remains: Will bigger ads bring more returns for online publishers in 2010 and beyond?
Starting next month, a number of large websites — including MSNBC, Hulu, Yahoo and AOL properties — are set to roll out video ads that allow users to choose which ad they'd like to see before the content they want to watch.
The new format could make users a lot happier with the ads they view online. But more importantly, it will give the sites publishing these ads important insight into which ads work and which don't. But will users enjoy serving as a focus group for internet publishers?
If it's true that all politics is local, it makes sense that AOL would want a piece of that ad market online. Starting today, the portal's advertising arm will be selling political advertising.
The company aims to combine its local and display focus with the burgeoning interest in online political advertising. And in fact, they might be on to something.
Can a site that documents viral content help a portal go viral? That's what AOL is hoping with its new Buzzfeed partnership.
In addition to links sent to the web's most popular content, Buzzfeed (which bills itself as "the viral web in real time") will now be linking to AOL stories on its homepage. That's not a bad idea.
It's official: after more than a year of rumors, AOL has finally managed to find a buyer for Bebo, the social networking website it purchased in 2008 for a whopping $850m.
The buyer: financial firm Criterion Capital Partners. The price: word on the street is that it didn't exceed $10m, and may have been as low as $2.5m.
AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong has been at the company for over a year now. As he readily admits, AOL has a long way to go before it will be able to stop depending on its slowly depleting dial-up revenues. But on stage at CMSummit in New York on Tuesday, Armstrong highlighted a key point of his strategy. Journalism is technologically challenged. AOL's trying to change that.
According to CEO Tim Armstrong, AOL is probably the largest newsroom in the world. With a staff comprised of 4,000 journalists, it's hard to quibble with that estimation.
But over the next year, AOL will have to make a lot of changes if it wants to follow through on its new brand promise to "beat the internet."
Coming to an established brand with new ideas is one thing. But convincing existing employees to change old habits is an entirely different issue. And that's increasingly a problem at AOL, where Tim Armstrong came from Google 11 months ago.
At the offices of brand strategists Wolff Olins in New York on Tuesday morning, AOL's CEO laid out the cultural shift that he is still trying to overcome:
"AOL was so used to losing that they didn't know what winning was."
I caught up with Digital Window CEO Kevin Brown to discuss the deal in more detail.
Times are tough for the traditional news organizations. Their business models battered, many question the future viability of the investigative journalism these organizations have historically funded.
Some suggest that nimble internet-based upstarts, possibly staffed with citizen journalists and volunteers, are the future. With lower overhead, these new media upstarts may be able to step in and fill the void. Or so the thinking goes.
Smartphones have been getting lots of attention lately what with Google's introduction of the Nexus One and all the ballyhooing going on over at CES this week. The world is seemingly poised for yet another "year of mobile" (I'm losing count, but it seems as if that scorecard is well into its second decade). So what are the opportunities? Where are the changes?
A new Questus study sponsored by AOL and Universal McCann takes the temperature of 1,800 smartphone users - because if any audience is not only receptive to, but equipped for mobile marketing messaging, it's very obviously these technology early adopters.
The findings? Heartening, but hardly earthshaking. Herewidth, some of the findings: