While its pageviews soared, AOL display ad sales declined 24% between 2008 and 2007. That drop — steeper than rival Yahoo’s, by far — cost CEO Randy Falco, COO Ron Grant and Platform-A sales boss Lynda Clarizio their jobs.
If new AOL (TWX) CEO Tim Armstrong wants to keep his, fixing AOL’s sales force will be his principle challenge.
Because we’re always trying to help, we asked Alan Citron — the founding editor of AOL’s most popular blog, TMZ — to tell us what’s wrong with AOL’s sales force.
These days Alan is senior adviser to Buzznet, a blog network that isn’t having any of AOL’s problems. The network behind mini-brands like WWTD, the Superficial and Stereogum — its revenues are up 200% q/q and the company just closed a $12.5 million funding round.
Alan said AOL sales have three problem in particular:
- There’s too much inventory to sell. Not all pageviews are created equal and AOL’s media properties generate too many of the worthless kind.
- Advertising.com is too much of a crutch for AOL sales people. Alan says it creates a pervasive feeling that “whatever you don’t sell will be covered off.” (It’s counter-intuitive, but we wonder if one way to solve this problem would be for AOL to stop “eating its own dog food” when it comes to serving ads against remnant inventory on MediaGlow pubs. You can’t buy your way onto Gawker’s blogs through an ad network and their revenues are up 30% y/y.
- Sales people don’t sell the individual brands enough. Alan says AOL sales people are just the victims of whipsaw messaging from above. Once they were told to pitch AOL’s massive reach and now they’re being told to sell each site as its own brand. That’s a change for the better and it needs to be made permanent.
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