In the midst of the Platform A “streamlining,” a source sends us the following note.
Our source, too, has heard that AOL’s ad revenue will be down 25%-30% this quarter, which would be a shocking disappointment. The source may just be hearing the same rumours CNBC’s David Faber is hearing, so don’t take this to the bank. Also note the source’s qualification about “stripping out all the padding.” Even if the core sales are 25%-30% below plan, in other words, the headline number AOL reports could look much better.
Lynda [Clarizio, head of Platform A] aspires to be Google “Lite” by going to the automated selling methods. The sales people support the technology rather than the technology supporting the sales efforts. As Google tries to make more inroads into display ads, AOL is running the other way. Given Google’s performance, they have a much better grasp on the market than [CEO Randy] Falco, [COO Ron] Grant and [Lynda] Clarizio do.
It should be very interesting to see how badly AOL misses their Q1numbers. Word is that after you separate out all of the padding and look at hard ad sales numbers, the shortfall will be between 25-30%. If that is true, it will be a real testimony to how wrong Ron Grant was and how correct Curt Viebranz was [about the feasibility of AOL’s targets for the year]. Somehow I don’t think [Time Warner CEO Jeff] Bewkes and Falco will dump Grant, no matter how far off they miss the goals. They fired the wrong guy with Curt.
Curt Viebranz, the former head of Platform A, was fired about a month ago. One source told us that the firing was the result of a disagreement Curt had with COO Ron Grant about the feasibility of AOL’s budget for the year (Curt thought they were way too aggressive). AOL denied this, saying Curt was fired because he moved too slowly in integrating Platform A.
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