Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Can Tim Armstrong Turn AOL Into a Winning Brand?


Tim Armstrong has been CEO of AOL for more than 100 days now and he's starting to talk about his plans to transform the struggling division of Time Warner. (Last week I reported on his four main areas of focus—see attached video).

The first area is AOL's owned and operated content properties, like,, and, a sports site. He'll separate that business from his second focus, the "Platform A" ad sales system, which AOL hopes to scale across the web.

AOL'S 100 Day Plan

A third business is local and location-based ads, which can take advantage of AOL's Mapquest site and the fact that there's no leader in this space. Last, Armstrong hope to expand upon AOL's communication and messaging technology, like Instant Messaging and ICQ.

Today Armstrong was all over the media, talking about his plans for the business. Perhaps the biggest headline is that AOL will be spun off in November (according to an interview with AllThingsD).

Another big takeaway: less is more for AOL. That holds true for ad products, of which AOL currently has more than 100, and the number of ads on a page. (The theory: pages with fewer ads load faster, allowing more people to see them, allowing pages with fewer ads to be just as profitable as pages with more ads).

Another AOL exec, Jeff Levick, president of global advertising and strategy, like Armstrong is a former Google exec. He talked to the Wall Street Journal about the company's plan to compete in the display ad space with an auction system called "BidPlace."

Perhaps the biggest challenge for AOL is its identity. Armstrong wants to make sure that people use AOL don't use their products because of inertia, but because they really have an affinity for the AOL brand and products. What is the AOL brand?

Armstrong told Ad Age that "the model is Disney." The goal is to be entertaining with a variety of content options, and a safe environment for families. To mention Disney is shooting high; it's easily the gold standard. Disney also has a certain unity to all its brands, while AOL's brands seem more far flung. I can't wait to see what Armstrong has in the works.

Questions?  Comments?