The First Day of Aol. and Its Many Faces

By December 10, 2009

Not only was the re-branded "Aol." Web site launched today, CEO Tim Armstrong rang the New York Stock Exchange's opening bell as a declaration of the company's independence and public trading. This marks an end to a partnership with Time Warner Inc that began in 2001, when AOL bought the media and communications company. As reported in the Associated Press, the companies bet that Time Warner television and magazine content would complement AOL's Internet business, but instead the spread of broadband decimated AOL's main source of revenue. What did the stock close at for its first day? AOL shares fell fifteen cents to close at $23.52, while Time Warner (TWX) stock closed up $1.23 at $30.45.

Another pressing question comes from Caroline McCarthy of CNET: "What is the monster's name?" She refers to a fuzzy blue monster that graces one of the more anthropomorphic options for logo themes on the main site. Other choices not seen in the preview include a cassette tape, a falcon and a purple pump heel.

The new homepage hopes to funnel visitors to its various services, including MapQuest, e-mail and instant messenger. The company operates over eighty specialty sites including independent music portal Spinner, sports destination FanHouse and tech blog Engadget. AOL hopes this number will shoot into the hundreds in the upcoming years.

The new brand favors diversity in all directions - much of the content for Aol.'s myriad niche sites will be provided by freelancers paid by the post. Former New York Times reporter Saul Hansell will be overseeing part of this new effort.

Analyst Larry Witt was quoted in BNET via Morningstar, enumerating Aol.'s various handicaps. Apparently, its "tarnished brand" will keep the company from reinventing itself, and all core segments of Aol. will continue to decline. Its smaller audience will gather less ad revenue from its deal with Google that expires next year. Since Google's search market share has increased since the deal began five years ago, AOL may receive a lower rate than it did back in 2006.

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