Tim Armstrong's First 100 Days at AOL: Try to Keep Track of the Moving Parts

Last Updated Jul 20, 2009 5:10 PM EDT

Following the lead from another chief executive, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is having a first 100 days coming out party, which has been covered extensively by Mediaweek, PaidContent.org, AllThingsD, and probably, well, 100 other blogs that are too long-tail to document here.

But, as all three of the sources above contained information that the others didn't necessarily have, for the purposes of this post I'll be more aggregator than blogger. Here then, some highlights, by publication:

From Mediaweek:

  • The four legs of (until now) the rickety AOL table are: content, advertising, local and communications.
  • Social networking service Bebo, which was supposed to be a fit with AOL's other communications platforms, such as AIM, is being shuttled off into AOL Ventures, because Armstrong found that even if it sounded good on paper, Bebo and other communications tools weren't necessarily a good fit.
  • Moving all of AOL ad inventory through ad network Platform-A was not a good idea. As Armstrong points out, this led to commoditization of display advertising, and a lessening in the value of premium content, which is a problem for many big online publishers.
  • The AOL brand doesn't suck in the eyes of consumers as much as the digerati thinks it does.
  • AOL's Mediaglow content operation rocks.
From PaidContent.org: From AllThingsD:
  • In future, AOL's messaging services will be more integrated with its other properties. Said Armstrong: "Historically, the management has looked at messaging as how to drive monetization and it has been a bad experience. I think that it [sic] more important as a recirculation tool."
  • AOL will streamline the number of ad products it has -- which currently stands at 100 -- and the number of publishing platforms.
  • If AOL renews its search deal with Google, which expires in 2010, expect it to be structured quite differently than how it is today.
If aggregating the content from the Armstrong press blitz has made this post somewhat random, I actually think it is emblematic of the many moving parts to AOL, and the many different strategic initiatives coming out of Armstrong's leadership. Right now for AOL, randomness is par for the course. As has been its problem for some years now, it's been hard to pin down just what AOL is: A bunch of content properties? An aggregator of line ad inventory? An instant messaging provider? All of the above and more? It's Armstrong's job to create some cohesion here, and not just so it's easier for bloggers to find a focus when writing about it.

UPDATE: The New York Times' Saul Hansell has weighed in with a lengthy feature three days after this post was originally written, and one day before Armstrong addresses an all-hands meeting at the company's Dulles headquarters. If this topic interests you, it's definitely worth a read.

Previous coverage of AOL at BNET Media: