AOL (or is it Aol now?) is back on the map lately. A couple of people I know recently started working for them in some capacity, so I figured they were making a hiring push in preparation for a comeback. That comeback plan must involve acquisitions, because this week brought news of AOL's purchasing TechCrunch. Yes, the ultimate symbol of all that is dated and lame about the Internet has purchased the tech blog that everyone loves to hate for its sketchy ethics and what Michael Gray calls "page view journalism." This, supposedly, will further AOL's strategy of becoming "the global leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high-quality, trusted, original content to consumers." Hey, you gotta have goals.
This was actually just one of several acquisitions announced this week, the other companies being online video network 5min Media and Brizzly creator Thing Labs Inc. Bloomberg called this spurt an attempt to "restore clout." (Several writers made note of AOL's sullied reputation, with headlines like "AOL Inc. wants to bring back its lost charm with acquisitions" and "AOL Hopes to Restore Luster Through Deals.")
According to Mashable, with these acquisitions, AOL specifically seeks to build out its technology expertise:
Asked on-stage about what the deal might mean editorially given the scope of the publications (TechCrunch also runs CrunchGear, MobileCrunch, and TechCrunchIT, among other sites) now under the AOL roof, Armstrong said, “We talked to Mike and [TechCrunch CEO] Heather and we agreed that there’s an opportunity to have a much larger tech presence as a whole. I would expect these brands to operate independently but leverage each other when needed and build a much more significant content audience for tech.”
Marshall Kirkpatrick speculates that the acquisition "could lead to other leading tech news sites being acquired by other big old media companies … It's not very original to say - but the acquisition of TechCrunch validates the market."
It's hard to imagine AOL rising to prominence again. I remember reading somewhere that having an @aol.com email address would automatically disqualify you with many hiring managers, at least in the tech industry – since using AOL is basically incompatible with being tech-savvy. This got me thinking that there must be a cache of AOL jokes somewhere on the Internet, but they were mostly pretty bad. This was the best of the bunch: AOL for Dummies is kind of redundant, don't you think? (via JokeBuddha)
So AOL users not only can't get jobs, they have no sense of humor? Actually, most of them are so angry they're not in the mood for jokes. In 2006, an IT guy named Vincent Ferrari recorded his phone conversation with AOL when he called to cancel. They made it somewhat difficult for him:
This isn't a unique story; there are many reports of customers having trouble cancelling their accounts, or canceling them but continuing to get charged for years. But then, this isn't really unique to AOL either. Ever tried to cancel your phone or cable service? It's almost a shame that this call center employee had to get fired when he was probably doing what his manager told him to do.
For my part, I must admit I have fond memories of the AOL days. I was 14 at the time, so I didn't have to pay the bills or deal with customer service reps. Also, I had an aunt who worked there and set us up with a bunch of free hours. One fine summer I spent hours every day in chat rooms or on message boards blabbing about music and sharing poetry. They knew me then as FreakGirl@aol.com. Oh, the '90s!
Internet Marketing Highlights This Week
Marissa Mayer is a little confused about how Facebook works; she criticized the company for all the "content that is being locked in." Isn't Facebook's whole value proposition that your content is kept private, i.e. locked in? People usually bash Facebook for not fulfilling that promise – bashing them for making it in the first place is a new tack.
Apparently, Gmail's conversation threading is like cilantro. If you think conversation view tastes like soap, you can now turn it off.
Outspoken Media's Rhea takes a look at when and why Google indexes multiple results from the same domain on the first page.
I've been on a branding kick lately. Mashable picks up on 11 trends in recent logo design, like speech bubbles, quadrangles, and retro game references. Oh my.
According to AdAge, the top two most "engaging" media outlets are Google search and AOL email.
Well by gum: Twitter's new design is based on the golden ratio.
In an A/B test, a shorter, vaguer headline ("Life is short. Just drive.") beat out a longer, more specific headline in terms of lead gen conversions, suggesting that grabbing people's attention is more important than telling them exactly what they're getting into right off the bat.
Thanks to Erik of Socialnomics for alerting me to this great quote from the Facebook movie (an ex of Mark Zuckerberg's says this to him): "You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole."
Enjoy your weekend!