AOL Media boss David Eun is leaving the company following its $315 million acquisition of Huffington Post.On his way out, Eun gave an interview to PaidContent.
He says he regrets creating the now infamous “AOL Way” document, that SAI got its hands on earlier this month.
Regrets? One would be that they didn’t do a better job explaining what has now become known as the “AOL Way” following the leak of a presentation showing how to maximise content traffic. “My first month, we agreed on a strategy—high-quality content at scale. We said there’s a way you can do both and create a road map. The presentation from the ops team was meant to show the best practices and guidelines in a “working” document. “It’s not some kind of ‘we’re checking up on you.'” For Eun, it was more of a primer meant for the parts of AOL’s content stream that didn’t already know how to use tools like SEO, tags or the data AOL collects instead of relying on the front-page fire hose. Sites like Engadget and TechCrunch weren’t in that category. “We shouldn’t have called it some grandiose thing that sounds like big brother.”
Eun, and AOL, shouldn’t apologise for creating a document like the AOL Way – one that instructs AOL writers and editors to remember that they are working for a for-profit enterprise and that they need to remember the bottom line when conceiving of and executing ideas for posts and other content projects.
What Eun should regret – and perhaps does – is the way the company went about communicating the message.
Some writers don’t mind working with a P&L mentality. Others are embarrassed by it. Others are angered by it.
What AOL needed to do is put the AOL Way in terms that would appeal to all writers. The only way to appeal to all writers is to appeal to their egos.
At its core, the AOL Way merely asked AOL writers to remember the reader – to remember to write things readers want to read, and write them in a way that will make it easy for readers to find them.
All it needed to remind these creative types is that the writers who best remember their readers are also best-loved. ESPN’s Bill Simmons is good example. So is TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington.
The AOL Way should have…
- Reminded AOL writers, creators, and producers to make stuff that lots of people will find addictive and easy to find.
- Profiled writers outside and inside AOL who “get it” – the stars.
- Introduced some tools to help AOL writers accomplish those goals and become stars too.
Instead, the AOL Way appealed to everyone’s concern for…AOL.
AOL should take a lesson from the guy at the Daily who told his journalists to go out and get some stories – to find the “oldest dog in America.”
The best part of it read:
We need to get out there and start finding more compelling stories from around the country – not just scraping the web and the wires, but getting out on the ground and reporting. Find me an amazing human story at a trial the rest of the media is missing. Find me a school district where the battle over reform is being fought and tell the human tales. Find a town that is going to be unincorporated because it’s broke. Find me a story of corruption and malfeasance in a state capitol that no one has found. Find me something new, different, exclusive and awesome. Find me the oldest dog in America, or the richest man in South Dakota. Force the new White House press secretary to download The Daily for the first time because everyone at the gaggle is asking about a story we broke. Get in front of a story and make it ours – force the rest of the media to follow us. It’s good stories that will keep people coming back to The Daily – we’ve assembled a crack news team, so let’s show the world what we can do.
The good news for AOL? In Arianna Huffington, it now has a media boss who understands the egos and sensibilities of media people.