Hooray! AOL Finally Finding Its Way

I am so excited for AOL! This is a company has not always had an easy time. First, its big merger with Time Warner fell apart because of circumstances completely beyond its control–I mean, accounting standards for internet businesses were still being established–and now all its dial-up customers are literally dying. The loss of so many grandmas all at once must be devastating. I totally support Tim Artmstrong and his efforts to turn this company around!
AOL used to stand for something: America Online! AOL sent EVERYONE the internet as a present. They sent my family 100 hours of free internet on a disk. Then they sent us 700 hours free and then 1,025 hours free! Then we started finding the free internet disks on the sidewalk or in the bushes, because AOL was so generous with them. 

And there were great things to do on the AOL internet! AIM, for example, where you could become SuGaRsWeEt114, and AOL chatrooms–the forerunners of today’s Chatroulettes and Yobongos. AOL keywords were super helpful and You’ve Got Mail was adorbs. But how quickly we forget AOL’s mitzvahs. Business Insider and some meanie rebloggers post a really long PowerPoint that does not belong to them and suddenly AOL is the villain! Class up, guys. Does a $3.2 billion company not have some expectation of privacy?

AOL is just trying to do a good job, like back in the old days. The company doesn’t want to miss out on any lucrative opportunities along the information superhighway. Everyone can empathize with that! But don’t take it from me–look at some of the goals in The AOL Way. Their production target is 40,000 pieces a month, which is great because MORE is always BETTER, unless you’re talking about staff, in which case LESS is BETTER.

AOL is planning to put lots more guaranteed-awesome content on the internet a la “Lady Gaga Goes Pantsless in Paris,” “Superfoods that Soothe the Skin,” and “Best Art Ever.” If content is king, AOL wants only the jewels on the crown. For example, the AOL Way calls for “video everywhere.” LOVE VIDEO. I could watch video all day. Also, listicles: Part of my daily diet. How-tos? Essential. Aggregation, link-bait and slideshows? More like a healthy breakfast, tasty lunch and satisfying dinner. Dessert would be maybe another slideshow.

AOL also wants to use social media more. Love it! Social media is the best thing since regular media.

In addition, AOL is being really principled about this whole laying everybody off thing. They did some performance reviews and even asked some editors’ input before firing writers. There was that one AOL editor who fired freelancers and then invited them to write for free! I thought that was nice of her but people got upset for some reason. I think it was just one of those “very unfortunate to have on email” situations where the wording was just confusing! AOL can’t be responsible for every employee who internalizes its corporate philosophy. Anyway she got fired after the uproar, which, under the cardinal rules of corporate public relations, totally redeems the company.

The AOL Way also mentions copy editing and fact-checking on this slide. You can say lots of mean things about AOL and what it’s going through right now, but you cannot claim they’re 100 percent craven. They obviously care about spelling and grammar.

The last reason I am so excited about AOL’s “spring cleaning,” if you will, is what it means for The Huffington Post. AOL is “folding” sites like Politics Daily, Walletpop and Urlesque into the big Huff, where the content will be shortened, search engine-optimized and relieved of personality before it proceeds to garner 10,000 Facebook likes. God, does The Huffington Post rule! It has lots of pictures and no paywall. Some people might say that 120-word articles like “What time does the Super Bowl start?” are an embarrassment to mankind, but I believe that example represents an efficient way to get information and also a sustainable product to build a business around.

We live in a time when a pretty splash page and a thinly-veiled threat to “claim your username” are enough to elicit thousands of email addresses from jostling early adopters. And yet we don’t have time for our old friends. Personally, I can’t wait to see what AOL does next. Patch is going to be awesome as soon as it gets over those Terrible Twos.

AOL also promised me a wow.com email address. I don’t know what to say about that except…wow! Thank you, AOL. As soon as I get it, I’m going to send Mr. Armstrong a really nice e-card. Readers, you should too!


Hooray! AOL Finally Finding Its Way