AOL has to fix AOL Mail immediately.
The good news is AOL knows it and they’ve already begun to make changes to the product and the product team.
Why is it so important AOL fix email? AOL Mail drives tons of traffic to AOL’s media sites, which are the centrepiece of CEO Tim Armstrong’s turnaround strategy.
How much traffic? Depends on who you ask. AOL Media people say AOL Mail users account for as little as 10% of AOL Media’s uniques and ~12% of its pageviews. The product side people — defending their turf — say AOL Mail drives as much as 25% of AOL Media’s pageviews and 50% of AOL’s total pageviews. Either way, its a lot.
What went wrong? The wrong people were in charge. For years, revenue-hungry business leaders solved P&L shortfalls by overstuffing AOL Mail with ads. Now Tim has a product-oriented exec in charge, ex-Yahoo Brad Garlinghouse. He’s the guy who helped turn Yahoo from the number three ranked player in email to number one. AOL is currently ranked fourth, and heading in the wrong direction.
So, what’s the plan?
- Last week, AOL took two sponsored links ads off the product. We expect more of that.
- Improvements to the fit and finish of the product, which doesn’t look designed right now. For a model of what’s to come, look at Hotmail, which relaunched in January is on the upswing since.
- The overall speed of the interface has to improve.
- AOL will soon begin to recycle user-names. Users who ignore their Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail accounts for more than a year or so lose their access to that account, and the account name goes back into the unclaimed pool. AOL lets negligent users hang on to ignored user names for years. This discourages new users who find that the screen name they really want is already taken.