In a profile about AOL’s rising media business — the Time Inc. for the 21st Century — the New York Times‘ David Carr makes a nice analogy for it: AOL is now like a giant beer company, building and buying dozens of “micro-brew” publishers that conceal the parent’s branding, but benefit from its distribution network.
For example, like an Anheuser-Busch-owned micro-brew, you have to scroll far down at AOL’s newish Politics Daily site to see the AOL logo on the label. But as part of AOL’s network, the site has access to a traffic firehose.
That’s one way it’s been able to attract 3.6 million unique visitors vs. rival Politico’s 1.1 million. (The Times doesn’t cite a source for the stats, but it’s reasonable to assume they’re comScore or Nielsen. Compete, by the way, shows both sites even around 2.4 million uniques.)
But as beer companies have learned, for fake micro-brews to be successful, they have to do more than just exist — they have to be good. That’s where AOL’s relatively recent strategy to hire experienced journalists to complement their troops of freelancers can be helpful. But that’s assuming those from the print side — AOL brags about a lot of hires from newspapers — can successfully leap to the Web.
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