AOL’s CEO Armstrong Reflects on First Months in Post

AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong said Thursday that he is happy with what he has accomplished in his first nine months, but acknowledged there is more upside and there remains more work to be done.

Speaking at the 20th annual Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications in San Francisco in a session that was Webcast, he said there is “a huge ocean of opportunity” for AOL as it continues to rebuild its business.

Asked about advertising trends, Armstrong said “the ad business is healthier than it was nine months ago,” even though online display ads continue to struggle.

His experience is that marketers have been very willing to look at buying ads on AOL properties as his team has tweaked the company’s business. The online firm can go head-to-head with anyone on advertising, he argued, and its increased focus on creating content is making things easier. “Content matters a lot to brands,” he explained.

Asked about the recession’s impact on online ads, Armstrong said: “I hope the recession will be an accelerant for online branded advertising.”

Most on Wall Street have lauded Armstrong’s early moves, but expect the AOL turnaround to take more time.

For example, J.P. Morgan on Wednesday started coverage of AOL with a “neutral” rating and a $27 price target. The analysts said AOL will most likely be an interesting play in 2011 as management fixes shortcomings of the past.