CEO Tim Armstrong has expressed a strong desire to turn AOL into the Time, Inc. of the 21st Century–a content production engine with great premium brands, super search-engine-optimization, a booming local news business, and a revolutionary freelance assignment and management tool that will give voice to thousands of aspiring journalists around the world. Tim has spoken often of AOL’s commitment to journalistic excellence as well as its commitment to finally figuring out the sustainable low-cost online content-production and distribution model that is eluding most traditional media companies.
And that sounds good. Insiders believe that Tim’s heart is in the right place. They also believe that AOL may eventually be able to cobble its myriad divisions and properties and strategies into a more unified whole.
But there’s a huge gap between theory and execution, and right now, AOL’s content strategy is a mess.
AOL runs sites like Engadget, Daily Finance, etc., but also has “content farm” Seed assigning articles. And it sounds like these two halves haven’t figured out how to work together.
Blodget writes: “AOLers are not clear whether AOL’s Google management intends to pursue a Demand-Media-like content farming strategy, in which editors and writers are perceived as annoyingly-high costs, or a premium content strategy, in which editors and writers are viewed as rare and valuable talent who can build big standalone brands.”
AOL’s made some high-profile hires over the past year so it seems unlikely that it will dump all the folks it lured away from the AP, HarpersBazaar.com, ESPN.com, and more. But it did just launch Seed. So this is certainly a company to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, in other news of Internet companies from the ’90s that are still inexplicably around, Yahoo! has hired a dozen journalists for Yahoo! News. Politico’s Michael Calderone is heading over there, which was hugely talked about in the blogosphere last week, but also moving to Yahoo News are Jane Sasseen, formerly of BusinessWeek, and Emmy-winning news producer Anna Robertson. Three years ago, Yahoo started creating original sports content and found it profitable. So now the company hopes to “maintain our healthy profit margins,” James Pitaro, head of media at Yahoo, told the NYT.