'Do we get free phone service now?' -- How AOL staffers are reacting to the Verizon merger

“Do we get free phone service now?” 

That was the bemused reaction of one AOL mid-level staffer when after reading the memo from company CEO Tim Armstrong this morning announcing a $US4.4 million sale to Verizon.

And that quote epitomizes the mix of confusion, excitement, and dread among AOL staffers who arrived at work this morning at its headquarters in lower Manhattan. Many of them milled around in the kitchen on the 5th and 6th floors, gathering in small groups to discuss the big announcement.

Some were excited about the possibility of bigger budgets for video productions and more corporate perks, others expressed concern about layoffs and many had no idea what to expect. 

At 10 a.m., staffers gathered for an all-hands meeting with Armstrong, which is being live-tweeted by HuffPost business editor Alex Kaufman. Armstrong was greeted with a standing ovation.

“I think everyone here is confused as to what this means,” said another AOL staffer.

Some staffers at AOL’s media giant, Huffington Post, expressed concern about reports that Verizon may spin off some of AOL’s content properties such as HuffPost, Endgadget and TechCrunch. 

“People are surprised. Nervous, as it becomes more clear that we’ll be spun off,” says one HuffPost staffer. 

AOL open office Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesAOL staffers at work in NYC office

Though they’re also worried about not being spun off, given Verizon’s history of owning media companies. When Verizon launched in-house tech blog Sugar String back in 2014, it reportedly banned reporters from covering topics like net neutrality and government surveillance.

 “Can you imagine being a reporter who’s not allowed to cover certain big issues? That would be the worst,” said one staffer.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.

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