AOL CEO Tim Armstrong just announced a management re-shuffle at the top of its media business.
Jon Brod, who had been COO of AOL’s entire media group – and Arianna Huffington’s only equal in the org – will now supervise only AOL’s network of local news sites, Patch, and MapQuest.
All of the GMs running AOL’s media brands – who had been reporting to Brod – will now report directly to Armstrong.
The memo doesn’t mention Arianna Huffington, who will remain control of editorial for the whole organisation.
As all this goes down, TechCrunch reports that AOL will also streamline the number of its content brands from 53 to 20 “Power Brands.”
We’re trying to get to the bottom of what all this means.
- AOL is betting $120 million per year on Patch. So far the bet looks like a bad one. Brod was Patch’s cofounder, before it was acquired by AOL. Has Armstrong dispatched Brod to save it?
- OR: Did Huffington feel that Brod was in her way – and so she pushed him out? The people who came over with HuffPo have uniformly been unimpressed with the way AOL ran its media business before they got there.
- OR: Is the HuffPo-AOL integration not going the way Armstrong wanted it to – as some insiders have griped – and he’s found it necessary to step in and take the reigns?
UPDATE: Inside sources report that Arianna’s role won’t change–that this is about streamlining reporting lines on the business side and more closely integrating sales and editorial. The move is also described internally as the company doubling down on the Huffington Post platform–both the technology and the approach to aggregation, original reporting, and blogging.
We’re emailing and phoning sources, but we could always use more. Contact [email protected] or 646.376.6014.
In the meantime, here’s Armstrong’s memo, via AllThingsD:
From: Tim Armstrong
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2011 08:29:19 -0400
To: Tim Armstrong
Subject: Platform for Growth
We spent the last week in France at the Cannes Lions Festival, which is a global meeting of the advertising community (the technology industry has CES and Cannes is becoming the “CES” of global advertising). After finishing Investor Day and the global company meeting two weeks ago, the trip to Cannes further underlined the opportunity we are starting to take advantage of – that content and brands are the next wave of the Internet.
Content, Brand Advertising, Video, and Local are going to be at the centre of the web and mobile for the next decade and we have made bold moves to position AOL at the forefront of those areas. We have a powerful portfolio of assets as a company and by matching our people, brands, and marketplace-defining products, we will simply get stronger, better and faster.
We are going to further strengthen our content brand portfolio to put maximum leverage into key areas of growth. We are also investing in the leadership structure of the brands and the overall analytical framework we have as a company.
The brand portfolio simplification and investments we are announcing today come from our core strategy, the metrics of growth we see in the business today, and the expanding opportunities we see in the marketplace. Every brand metric was thoroughly reviewed and thoughtfully discussed to get to the list we are sharing with you today. There are a set of brands we will continue to run as stand-alone brands because they have built strong organic traffic, significant customer bases, and unique market positions. There is another set of brands that will gain usage, a larger customer base, and deeper content by becoming part of the Huffington Post platform.
We want to make this transition as simple and intuitive as possible for employees, consumers, and advertisers, so we’ve set up a link to the brand site to review the complete list of brands and USPs.
The AOL Huffington Post Media Group technology platform is the end result of a company wide effort combining the very best content, video, ad, and data technologies from the Blogsmith platform with the best technologies from Huffington Post platform—and we’ve been hard at work adding many new capabilities as well. This combined platform simply has no equal in the digital content space and features an innovative approach to coverage, with edit and tech teams working closely together, and a “hyper-efficient editor” model that enables editors and reporters to rapidly deploy all the tools available to create and disseminate stories. We have integrated in 5min video, AOL demand analytics, and AOL’s data platform deeply into the system, and we will soon be running all of the advertising through AOL’s ad platform. Editors are not silo-ed but empowered to quickly bring their stories to life – and to millions of readers. This leads to engagement on a massive scale, creating an editorial ecosystem with high-quality content, leading edge blogging, commenting, and social sharing capabilities that are easily scale-able and enable real-time speed and a more holistic approach to covering news and engaging audiences.
Here are some quick statistics on the benefits we are seeing in combining sets of brands and platforms:
· When we migrated AOL News to the HuffPost platform we saw significant increases in organic traffic with search entries per UV increasing 195% and social entries per UV up 142%.
· By combining Politics Daily with HuffPost Politics content, social interactions, which include HuffPost comments, FB comments, shares and re-shares, FB Likes, tweets, re-tweets, and email shares reached 3.3MM.
· Adopting Huffington Post style blogging in the Patch platform allowed us to sign up 5,000 bloggers in 2 weeks
The goals of the brand and platform investments are the following:
1. Grow traffic and grow revenue with high quality experiences for consumers and advertisers
2. Be the leader in content CMS and CMS for Ads (Devil + Social)
3. Simplify the business process and increase profitability in each vertical area
4. Scale video and International
5. Create a culture of speed and transparency on all fronts
In support of the brand investments, we are also making people investments. The current GM structure around the content brands will report to me and I have met with all the GM’s to discuss each vertical opportunity. Local will be broken out as a vertical and is a space where AOL is in a leadership position. Jon Brod will focus full-time on AOL’s local efforts, including Patch and Mapquest. Jon is the co-founder of Patch and has spent the past few months successfully integrating the Huffington Post and AOL media. AOL local has a lot of exciting products coming out this summer and we will be connecting many of those products to our larger business.
We are also announcing a new position that will have a positive impact across AOL – the formation of a Chief Analytics Officer and Project Management organisation (PMO). Tim Lemmon, currently working in Ned Brody’s Advertising.com Group, is being promoted to CAO, reporting directly to me, and will oversee and drive analytics and project management on a company-wide basis. Data and analytics are key to our success and we will continue to look for Tim to provide fact-based guidance and executional focus for all of AOL. Tim’s current AOL Analytics team including Pricing and Yield Management will continue to report to him.
I’ll be holding a working meeting today at 11am EDT with the Sales team to discuss the new brand structure, the HuffPost platform, and the supporting org structure. The meeting information is available on AOL Today and anyone is invited to dial in if you are interested in learning more. Go AOL! -TA
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