How to Fix AOL (TWX), 2: Help Appoint One Content Chief

Many excellent recommendations from AOLers on how to fix the company (See first instalment in this user-generated-consulting project here).  We’ll roll some up into a separate post later today for your weekend reading.  Meanwhile, here is our second recommendation for AOL, one that again will benefit from your participation.  Interestingly, one reader even made the same point last night, so we’ll give him/her full credit for it.

Recommendation 1:   Boost Morale (read post)
Recommendation 2:   Appoint 1 head of content/programming division instead of 3 (after jump)
Background: AOL is currently organised into three divisions:

  • Access
  • Programming (web properties and communications tools)
  • Platform A (advertising network)

The first and third divisions have clear leaders: Kim Partoll runs Access and Curt Viebranz (ex-Tacoda) runs Platform A.  These divisions have relatively clear reporting and responsibility lines, and they will live and die based on the leadership of Curt and Kim.  (OK, the Access division will die regardless, but at least the folks within it won’t have competing reporting lines and interests).

AOL’s “Programming” division, however, still has three leaders: EVPs Bill Wilson, Kevin Conroy, and Ted Cahall.   Each runs a sub-division within “Programming,” and each reports directly to Ron Grant (COO).  Here are the basic summaries on each:

Bill Wilson, EVP “Programming”

Wilson is responsible for “creative program development and original production for all AOL content including Women & Lifestyle, News, Money & Finance, Music, Movies, TV, Celebrity, Games, Sports, AOL Latino, Black Voices, Research & Learn, KOL, and Red. He also manages AOL’s programming joint ventures including leading celebrity news site TMZ.”  Full bio here.

Kevin Conroy, EVP “Products”

Conroy is responsible for “development of AOL products including and customised versions of the AOL portal, the AOL client software, AOL Mail, AOL Video and AOL Video Search, Instant Messaging, Social Networking, Mobile, Storage, and Safety and Security tools.”  Full bio here.

Ted Cahall, EVP “Platforms and Technologies”

Cahall is responsible for “Search, e-commerce, search company Relegence, publishing, and local services including MapQuest.” Full bio here.

The Problem

AOL’s content and communications properties are still critically important to its value, whether or not they all ultimately remain part of the same company.  For AOL to succeed as a unit, the company’s content strategy must be cohesive and sound, and it is more likely to be so, in our opinion, with clean, efficient management responsibility. 

AOL’s senior management believes that the sub-divisions headed by these men are so vast and disparate that they shouldn’t report to a single “Programming” head.  We respectfully disagree.  We support the idea that AOL should free its brand and property managers to run their own businesses, but we also believe in the efficiency and clarity of clear responsibility and, dare we say it, synergy.  Thus, we believe that, if AOL wants to view itself as consisting of three business units–Access, Programming, and Platform A–it should appoint a head of each.

The Solution

Appoint one head of “Programming”.  The head could be one of Messrs. Wilson, Conroy, or Cahall–or someone else (AOL could appoint an overall division head that they can all report to–although this seems a needless additional layer of management).  And this is where we need everyone’s help.

Who should run AOL’s “Programming” division?  Cast your vote below (sorry about the annoying trip off site when you press “vote”) and/or add your detailed thoughts to the comments.

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