Is AOL still a relevant giant the ad:tech ecosystem? AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is on the road at ad:tech SF as the opening keynote defending the company’s position in market.
Tim Armstrong took over the reins as CEO of AOL in 2009 during a difficult transition from the Time Warner spinout to an independent public company. Tim has frequently described AOL as the “World’s Largest Startup,” yet continues to trial and error new business models using profits from their declining dial-up business.
Last week speaking at a conference in D.C., Armstrong was quoted as saying “AOL is not going the way of the dodo bird.” AOL has invested itself deeply as an owner-operator in Patch, a local editorial content platform, trying to write its own future by generating valuable local advertising impressions. Where investors and tech elite question AOL’s ad:tech strategy is if the Patch model works to convert local advertising into local commerce. So far Patch shares the same unprofitable expansion economics as ZipCar and cannot depend on an outside bailout for more resources.
On the content side, AOL has recommitted itself to remain within consumers view by acquiring new web properties, including TechCrunch, Huffington Post, and most recently gdgt. AOL has thus far avoided the CBS/CNET controversy model over editorial freedom and has a willingness in its DNA to produce consumable content. What’s for sale are frequent homepage takeovers, although their advertising power has been dwarfed by Facebook in user engagement. The AOL audience, however, is a known industry landmark for having higher than normal conversion in the decrepit web display advertising market.
Where AOL has done extremely well is in the video advertising ecosystem, producing the necessary demand for high quality video ad impressions with all the prime measurement tools for brand marketers. Unfortunately, across the majority of its sites, their portal legacy, and the Ad.com advertising network, AOL hasn’t done much to reinvent the next generation of digital advertising.
9:00 AM on stage at ad:tech 2013 SF, we’ll see if Tim has any news to break to brand marketers and technologist everywhere.