With HuffPo purchase, AOL just might, finally, be turning the corner. But probably not.

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger skeptic about AOL than me, and my skepticism comes from many angles: as a former subscriber, a former advertiser, and even a former employee of the company for 2 years.

Yet with today’s announcement that AOL is buying the Huffington Post, and following AOL’s acquisition last September of TechCrunch, I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, this dinosaur of an irrelevant brand might be able to be resurrected under Tim Armstrong’s watch. He certainly has kicked butt compared to what Carol Bartz has hasn’t done at Yahoo.

But I’m just not sure.  Despite making some bold and promising moves, Tim faces an uphill battle.  The reason is that the AOL brand itself has such a legacy of decline, mismanagement, and irrelevancy associated with it by many different constituencies, that I just don’t know if it’s salvageable. My advice: ditch it completely.

As I started this post I started remembering a bunch of specifics about AOL: the insane examples of dysfunctional management which occurred while I was a mid-level manager there, the wrath bestowed on the company by agencies and advertising clients who felt ripped off, the frustration of consumers as they tried to close their accounts, and the irrelevancy of the brand as millions of subscribers every quarter ditched AOL’s dial-up service to switch to broadband provided by someone else.

So much content came to mind that I though, hey – how about a series of posts on the subject?

Yeah, it’s easy to kick this maimed horse, but my real point will be to convey just how deeply damaged the core equity of the brand must be.  If I were in Tim’s shoes (and I am most thankful that I am not) the AOL brand would be out the window.

Thus marks the intro to my new, happy-go-lucky series entitled: “You’ve Got Stale: Why the AOL brand should be thrown out like last week’s curdled milk.” (I know, right? Catchy AND short.)

I know you’re riveted. Stay tuned.

2 responses to “With HuffPo purchase, AOL just might, finally, be turning the corner. But probably not.

  1. Kelly, Clearly, you have strong opinions about AOL. I found the merger/buy out more of a coup for The Huffington Post. I am a huge fan of the Huff and I am glad this is an opportunity to increase their hits/readership. Although they are down playing the liberal/progressive slant. (On the PBS News Hour last night, Miss Huffington, said this merger is far more than “right verses left,” yet she followed that comment by noting that partnership was critical prior to the 2012 election…hmm… sounds pretty political to me. I think it is huge. In an ever shrinking world for “like-minded” thinkers to express our point of view, the Huff has more to gain than AOL. It wasn’t going to happen with Comcast, The News Corp, Google, etc. Thanks for the posting. Russell

  2. Russell- I agree, Huffington Post is great and they’re probably the main winners in the deal. I actually think AOL’s content strategy is making some sense…my beffudlement is with the fact that they continue to cling to the tired base brand itself.

    And a special prop to HuffPo for their past coverage of data from Hunch! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/birthers-rarely-leave-us_n_339104.html

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