Here’s a question that’s much harder to answer than it should be: What is AOL?
Yes, we all know that eventually, AOL is going to be nothing but a media company — a “Time Inc. for the 21st Century,” as one exec put it.
But what is AOL right now, as it prepares to spin-off from Time Warner next week?
Depends who you ask.
Ask Tim Armstrong and, ignoring AOL’s 5.4 million ISP subscribers, he’d break it into four pieces:
- AOL Media — blogs like Engadget and Daily Finance and Patch, a network of local news blogs.
- AOL Advertising — AOL’s ad network, ad.com
- AOL Products — Communication products like AOL Mail and AIM
- AOL Ventures — Companies AOL acquired and now wants to divest, like Bebo.
Ask analysts and they’ll break AOL into 4 seperate revenue streams:
- Access, which through ISP subscriptions and through the traffic ISP subscribers bring, accounts for 60% of AOL’s EBIDTA this year.
- Display, search, and third-party advertising makes up the other 40%.
Consumers would probably break up AOL by its many, many brands. These include (and we say include, because we’d be fools to say we could definitively list them all):
- Instant messaging tools AIM and ICQ
- AOL Mail.
- Video search engine Truveo.
- Social network Bebo.
- Userplane, an acquired company which describes itself as a builder of “Web based applications that include audio/video chat and a/v recorder, for community and corporate use.”
- Online maps and driving directions tool MapQuest.
- Blog search engine Surphace.
- Patch, a network of local news blogs.
- Events site Going.com
- About 80 or AOL Media brands:
We’d break up AOL into businesses and brands the company will keep, those it would keep but rather sell, and those it would sell but shut down if it has to:
It will keep:
- All the media sites that work
- AOL Mail
It would sell, but keep if it has to:
It would sell or shut down:
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