AOL has gone from ugly duckling to swan, says MediaPost. Even advertisers are now praising “the division”, which, indeed, has made several tough but important changes in the past few years:
- Phasing out “Rainman” technology and walled garden in favour of open HTML
- Taking the medicine w/r/t dying dial-up subscription business
- Building rocking celebrity gossip site TMZ
- Beginning to overhaul awful email and other sections
- Cool video offerings, thanks to exclusive content deals (no thanks to parent Time Warner’s “no synergy” policy)
- Making smart acquisitions (Advertising.com, Tacoda)
- Making management changes that are actually working out (We, for one, were terrified when Jon Miller was ousted to make room for Randy Falco. But the old media bigwig ain’t doing so bad!). Most important change: new management feels free to see–and acknowledge–reality
- Plans to open up AIM and invest in Mapquest
- Fewer display ads, more search.
This is not to say that there isn’t still major work to be done–namely, broadening the user base beyond teens and 1990s dinosaurs who are still hanging on. Praise from advertisers is nice, but it’s also irrelevant if the company can’t attract new users.
Not so bad, not so bad!
But pay attention, Yahoo. Another couple of quarters of bumbling and executive departures, and you’ll be just as far behind the eight-ball as AOL ever was. But if AOL can crawl its way out, then so can you.
Fortune’s Paul LaMonica also recaps AOL’s last twelve months and previews Aug 1’s quarterly results: AOL must post year-over-year ad growth of 30%-40%, or Wall Street will once again throw in the towel.