The morning that Aol CEO Tim Armstrong announced the $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post, he stood beside a beaming Arianna Huffington in the company’s Broadway headquarters.
Watching from the back of the room, I remember Huffington proudly declaring that her sister, Agapi Stassinopoulos, whom she had brought with her, still used an Aol e-mail address.
The couple hundred assembled Aol workers, already disoriented by the surprise merger, greeted this with a tentative cheer that seemed to trail off into a question mark. Even employees found it hard to reconcile the company’s ambitions as a world-beating tech giant with the unfashionable reality of having Aol e-mail.
As a lifelong Hotmail user, smirking at the hipster apocalypse that was yesterday’s Gmail outage, I beg to differ.
Patch, AOL’s hyperlocal site, laid off around 350 employees today. The eliminated positions, which represent about 40 percent of the workforce, could increase to 500 if AOL doesn’t succeed in finding partners for some of the underperforming sites, ALL Things D reported this morning. For now, that leaves 150 people in limbo.
CEO Tim Armstrong was expected to announce 500 layoffs on a conference call last Friday (instead, Mr. Armstrong publicly fired a staffer for taking his picture during the call, and then sort of apologized for it this week).
Tim Armstrong sent out a staff email today to apologize for the camera shot heard ’round the world (or at least heard by those who frequent Jim Romenesko’s blog). Because if you very publicly fire your creative director for taking your picture during a charged conference call where you are announcing bad news, as Mr. Armstrong did last Friday, the least you can do is send out an apology memo.
“I am writing you to acknowledge the mistake I made last Friday during the Patch all-hands meeting when I publicly fired Abel Lenz. It was an emotional response at the start of a difficult discussion dealing with many people’s careers and livelihoods,” Mr. Armstrong wrote to staff in an email obtained by Mr. Romensko. “I am the CEO and leader of the organization, and I take that responsibility seriously. We talk a lot about accountability and I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel.”
We knew things weren’t going great over at AOL, but we’d no idea CEO Tim Armstrong had gone full Greta Garbo.
Earlier today, Mr. Armstrong gathered the employees of Patch together on a conference call to announce hundreds of site closing and layoffs, effective next week. Now, that was never going to go over very well. But according to reports published by Jim Romanesko and TechCrunch, the CEO made things even more miserable by, it seems, abruptly firing someone (maybe a creative director) who tried to snap a photo of Mr. Armstrong:
Hard times are hitting Patch, AOL’s network of hyperlocal news sites. In an earnings call yesterday, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said that he expects to shut, sell or find partners for nearly 300 of the 900 sites, Newsday reported this morning. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong said that layoffs will eliminate up to 500 positions, reported Jim Romenesko. Details of the layoffs will be announced on Friday.
Giving employees two days to speculate about upcoming layoffs understandably rankled staffers.
Annals of Sent Mail
We can’t say we envy whoever’s behind the wheel of Patch, AOL’s network of hyperlocal news sites. With a torrent of bad press; a prettier, more popular sister in The Huffington Post, and executives resorting to (allegedly) defending the company in the Business Insider comments section, it’s likely Team Patch in need of a morale boost. But it’s hard to know how to make a generous statement of your confidence in the company without awakening some sales exec’s dormant inner frat boy.
Attendees at AOL and PBS’s recent joint “Makers Lunch” at AOL Studios in the Village posed in front of a bank of monitors featuring images of Katie Couric, Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, and other famous femmes. They were celebrating the launch of Makers.com, a site that features video interviews with a number of lady machers who Read More
New York Times Magazine writer Andrew Goldman kicked off his “Talk” with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong by revealing that Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the AOL-owned Huffington Post, was not very pleased with her own turn in the Q&A column.
AG: After AOL purchased The Huffington Post last year, I interviewed Arianna Huffington. She hung up on me and complained to my editors. So I was pleasantly surprised that you agreed to this interview.
TA: I read the interview when it came out, and it looked like it was rough. We don’t hold grudges around here.
Back in April, Mr. Goldman and Ms. Huffington got into it over the alleged red shift that had struck the news site, once known as the liberal’s Drudge Report, since its merger with AOL.
IMPRESSIVE DISPLAYS OF CHUTZPAH
Alexia Tsotsis was a well-liked and popular tech blogger before she was at TechCrunch, back when she was at SF Weekly. She became even more well-liked and popular when Michael Arrington corralled her into going to TechCrunch, which was shortly before AOL bought the site out and promised Michael Arrington the full editorial autonomy to be as combative and belligerent with his new ownership as he had been with anyone with the past. Not long after, AOL chief content capo Arianna Huffington pushed Michael Arrington out to show him just how much autonomy the irascible feeding-hand-biting blogging mogul had. Because TechCrunch’s chief Kool-Aid mixer, Mr. Arrington, was out of the picture, some of the best TechCrunch writers on staff started quitting. Ms. Tsotsis has held out.
It is now safe to say she appears tired of holding out.
content is king
In his bid to turn AOL around by creating a content empire, CEO Tim Armstrong has pulled out all the stops, purchasing the Huffington Post for $315 million and appointing Arianna Huffington as editor in chief.
According to Kara Swisher at All Things D, the pair have a new motto for the empire Read More