LEAKED: AOL's Master Plan

Two years into his tenure as AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong is stepping on the gas.By April, he wants AOL editorial to increase its stories per month from 33,000 to 55,000.

He wants pageviews per story to jump from 1,500 to 7,000.

He wants video stories to go from being 4% of all stories produced to 70%.

He wants the percentage of stories optimised for search engines to reach 95%.

We know all this, because right now, Armstrong’s lieutenants are making their way through the company’s many editorial divisions, training them on “The AOL Way.”

Some of AOL’s journalists, editors, content creators aren’t all happy with the training.

“AOL is the most f—–up, bull—t company on earth,” says one, who joined AOL in what he calls, “the worst career move I’ve ever made.”

Others are more positive, but asked not to be quoted.

We have a copy of “The AOL Way.”

AOL is using this document to train editors right now. It is an illuminating look into how AOL, a company with hundreds of millions in dollars in annual funding, is trying to turn itself into a 21st century media giant on the fly.

Some tidbits:

  • AOL tells its editors to decide what topics to cover based on four considerations: traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turn-around time.
  • AOL asks its editors to decide whether to produce content based on “the profitability consideration.”
  • The documents reveal that AOL is, when the story calls for it, willing to boost traffic by 5 to 10% with search ads and other “paid media.”
  • AOL site leaders are expected to have eight ideas for packages that could generate at least $1 million in revenue on hand at all times.
  • In-house AOL staffers are expected to write five to 10 stories per day.
  • AOL knows its sites are too dependent on traffic from AOL.com, and it wants its editors to fix the problem by posting more frequently, with more emphasis on getting pageviews.

The entire document is newsworthy, but here are some pages you must make sure to see:

  • AOL’s goals.
  • How AOL Media is structured and responsibilities are divided
  • The daily, weekly, and monthly schedule for AOL sites.
  • AOL’s traffic sources by type.
  • A chart showing how AOL sites depend too much on the homepage
  • The four types of “content generation processes.”
  • The “content generation process.”
  • AOL’s tools for editors for “identifying high demand topics.”
  • AOL’s content distribution channels, by type.
  • What kind of content AOL wants on its homepage and how to get it there.
  • A screenshot of AOL’s metrics page for editors.
  • How AOL builds cheap, Demand Media-like pages around search-friendly topics.
  • AOL’s requirements for third-party traffic exchange partners

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