AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong discussed his first 100 days atop the online company in a lengthy interview with Staci D. Kramer for paidContent.
Armstrong on AOL’s strategy:
When I came in here, the strategy was People Networks, Media Glow and Platform-A. I think after being here 100 days and listening internally and externally that our strategy has changed a little bit on the People Networks front. We’re not combining instant messaging with social networking right now, which was actually happening when I got here. We’ve sort of unwound that because it wasn’t successful for consumers. We’re looking at communications as more of e-mail, IM and SMS. On the content front, Media Glow is a core aspect of what we’re doing but we’re thinking about technology in a different way with Media Glow. On the Platform-A side, I think there was a construct to put owned-and-operated inventory and mix it directly with network inventory, and I think that we are unwinding that, as well.
On the future of Platform-A:
I think one of the things we’re actively looking at right now is what is Platform-A. My general sense of a platform is that it’s one system, everything’s hooked together, it works seamlessly together, and it’s integrated well. Many parts of Platform-A are there, but we’re not there as a total whole yet. I think also the notion of Platform-A in the marketplace was this integrated approach integrated nicely across the high-quality inventory, the user-generated inventory, and that is an area we’re actively looking at. The Platform-A strategy is something we are changing right now into more of an owned-and-operated focus and more of a network focus. Is the Platform-A brand name going to be around in the focus? I don’t know the answer to that right now, but it’s something we’re actively discussing.
On whether he was disappointed that AOL is no longer handling ad sales for TMZ:
No. As a matter of fact, I think we have to look at TMZ from an ownership perspective, so if you ask me, “Is TMZ selling their own ads a good thing or not a good thing in relation to AOL?” I would say, “If the value of TMZ increases, it’s a really good thing for us.” I would also say that TMZ has a television property and an online property and, as you know, the properties that have television plus Websites tend to sell more integrated packages. AOL currently does not have a real strong foothold in TV, so if TMZ’s able to sell that, that’s beneficial to us. I know the TMZ people well, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve talked to them multiple times and I think that’s a partnership weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re happy with. The second piece, we have a substantial property in Popeater that’s maybe twice the size of TMZ from a traffic perspective, so we are very focused on monetizing Popeater and the entertainment properties. If you take a step back and look at the marketplace of how TMZ maximizes revenue and Popeater maximizes revenue with TMZ having television, I think it makes sense that TMZ may be better off selling on its own.
Bebo is in an incredibly competitive space. Bebo has a stronghold in certain countries around the globe, but I think the Bebo team in general could benefit from being in an environment where they can purely focus on Bebo and growing Bebo. There have been distractions for Bebo in the past, which have been closely tied to trying to integrate it, and the integrations haven’t always worked well. We are in the process of letting Bebo focus on what Bebo is really good at.