AOL is unveiling a data-driven site overhaul today that should give marketers a sense of how it will zero in on mobile video and branded content as it plots its future.
The revamp comes less than a month after Verizon's $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL and is based on a load of the publisher's stats. For instance, between April 2014 and April 2015, video views grew 94 percent, and 90 percent of articles now have a video attached. On mobile, unique visits are up 80 percent over last June. And multiplatform visits—folks who read AOL's content across multiple devices—grew 21 percent.
While those figures are intriguing, the traffic isn't from users visiting AOL.com directly. Instead, they are finding video links in social feeds. With that in mind, each article and video is meant to live as a piece of stand-alone content. For example, headlines like "White House candidates struggle in cyber space" and pieces about Vine celebrities Jack and Jack are likely to be buzzy on social media and prompt users to click on an article.
"We're doing a better job of publishing video across social platforms—there are plenty of people who aren't going to AOL as part of their daily routine," said Maureen Sullivan, president of AOL.com. "They may see some of our video content in their social stream, and then they find themselves in the AOL environment. It's almost like finding people through the side doors."
Buoyed by a partnership with NBCUniversal, announced during AOL's NewFronts presentation, and the growth of streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat, AOL is also adding a live video player to its site.
While a number of news publishers are experimenting with live video, Sullivan equated AOL's size to that of a TV network and said that will help it stand out. "Some of those platforms [like Periscope] are really cool, but they need curation in front of it," she said. "We're more of a TV network than I think we are a website."
On the marketing side, Bank of America and, interestingly, Verizon launch AOL.com ad campaigns today. Per AOL, the Verizon promo is coincidental and doesn't tie in with the telecom's acquisition of the publisher. Verizon's ad promotes its unlimited talk and text plans.
The mobile version of the site is built like a news feed, so ad formats like branded content that mimic editorial articles can stand out.
"We're putting the native content on the same footing as all the programming on the page," Sullivan said. "If [marketers] are going to invest in creating native content with a publisher, they want to make sure there is visibility to it."