What you make of AOL's layoff plans depends on whether you usually see the glass as half full or 50 percent empty. Here's the deal -- we've known for some time that AOL was readying pink slips, but according to reports, the New York-based company is 'only' letting go of several hundred employees this time around, far less than what some might have been expecting.
AOL's $315 million acquisition of The Huffington Post is nearly complete, and as the finish line approaches, job cuts can be seen on the horizon. If there's a bright side to this, it's that the job cuts won't come until after the deal is complete. But they are around the corner, because as AOL CEO Tim Armstrong put it, there's just no way to avoid making cuts.
AOL once ruled the dial-up domain, and if you're a packrat, you probably have a bunch of AOL CDs stuffed in a shoebox tucked away in the basement. Those glory deays are behind them now, and going forward, AOL has set its sights on being a major player in the online news market. Adding to its growing list of media outlets -- which includes TechCrunch, Engadget, and AutoBlog, among others -- the once popular ISP is buying The Huffington Post for $315 million.
First and foremost, you might be surprised to learn that people still subscribe to AOL, the once popular ISP that fell from relevance about the time broadband came into its own. But get this -- according to The New Yorker, some 80 percent of AOL profits still come from its subscription business. It gets even better.
The New Yorker describes these subscribers as "older people who have cable or DSL service but don't realize that they need not pay an additional $25 a month to get online and check their email."
We're not talking about a small fraction of users, either. BusinessInsider said it spoke with a former AOL exec who said that AOL's "dirty little secret" is "that 75 percent of the people subscribe to AOL's dial-up service don't need it." When you consider that AOL raked in $244 million from 4 million customers in the third quarter of 2010, you can see where this could be troubling.
Remember when AOL used to distribute those trial CDs back in the 1990s? You probably still have half a dozen packed away with your other tech remnants from yesteryear, and maybe you're still using one as a coaster. The rest ended up in the garbage bin, but what you may not have realized at the time was how much AOL was actually spending to get those CDs into your hands.
AOL co-founder and former chief executive Steve Case, along with a few other execs from AOL's heyday, revealed some interesting numbers in a sit down with Quora.com.
"I don't remember the total spending but do recall in the early 1990s our target was to spend 10 percent of lifetime revenue to get a new subscribers," explains Steve Case, co-founder and former chief executive. "At the time I believe the average subscriber life was about 25 months and revenue was about $350 so we spent about $35 to acquire new subscribers."
Jan Brandt, another former chief, had a better recollection of the exact figures, saying AOL spent "over $300 million. At one point, 50 percent of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it. We were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds."
Citing "sources close to the plans," Reuters is reporting that AOL is seriously considering merging with Yahoo, which will first require a "complicated series of transactions."
Nothing is yet imminent, but according to Reuters, the plans are in the exploratory stage. A bunch of obstacles also stand in the way of this happening, not the least of which includes a breakup of AOL's two main businesses, it's legacy dial-up service (which would be sold to EarthLink) and it's display advertising business, which would merge with Yahoo.
This is essentially the same thing AOL hoped to accomplish back in 2008 and again in 2009 before Time Warner decided to spin off AOL rather than deal with the tax headaches what would accompany a breakup.
Following the launch of the new AOL.com is an ambitious new email system currently code named "Project Phoenix." This represents AOL's attempt at reinventing AOL Mail which, among other things, will bring a unified inbox into its new bag of tricks.
"Email remains one of the most vital communication tools despite all of the new sites and apps available to consumers today," said Brad Garlinghouse, President of AOL's Consumer Applications Group. "There is still so much innovation to be done in the space and Project Phoenix is just the tip of the iceberg. We see a huge opportunity to disrupt email in a big way. AOL is the company that brought everyone online, and now we're making it simpler and more enjoyable to be there."
AOL claims its email business drives 45 percent of the company's page views, so as you can imagine they're taking Project Phoenix very seriously. Completely redesigned and built from the ground-up, the new mail system includes a bunch of feature additions, including a Quick Bar (send emails, IMs, or text messages and update Facebook and Twitter), email aggregation (send and receive messages from nearly any provider, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail), a Smart View system that displays things like photo attachments and maps as thumbnail pics in the right-hand sidebar, and more.
Project Phoenix is currently by invite only, which you can sign up for here. Video preview below.
It's already a new week, and time for another fun-filled dose of the Maximum PC No BS Podcast. This week, the guys talk about Windows Phone 7, Google TV, and a possible Aol/Yahoo merger. A brand new catch phrase is invented and subsequently run into the ground faster than the Exxon Valdez. That's a little environmental disaster humor for all of you.
Also, we're giving away some more sweet loot from Asus. Listen in to find out how you can win. Hit the jump for full contest rules.
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are not standing by.
TechCrunch may be famous for running stories of dubious reliability, but this one is for sure. AOL has acquired the blogging network that covers sites like TechCrunch proper, Mobile Crunch, and Crunch Base. Much as they did with the acquisition of Weblogs Inc., AOL looks to be taking a hands-off approach to the TechCrunch network. "TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence..." said AOL in the press release.
No one is talking directly about price, but many have been floating numbers in the tens of millions. Some estimates go as high as $75 million. It is unclear if TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington will stay or go, but most observers are betting on 'go". After all, it's a pretty big payday. TechCrunch writers will reportedly split a small amount of stock, which will make for a nice bit of walking around money too.
AOL has been busily transforming into a content company over the last few years, and this is just one more example of that process. Having Engadget and TechCrunch under one roof makes AOL a real force online.
Google has become a part of everyday life, both for its now-ubiquitous search engine, as well as for its huge lineup of services. Whether it's Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Picasa or the almighty Google Search, the company holds a large majority of users in the palm of its hand.
And there are good reasons why Google's services and products are so popular, but that doesn't mean that the competition isn’t pitting their own ideas against the internet giant. Other big-hitters like Yahoo and Microsoft are also vying for their stake in the market, and numerous smaller developers are attempting to offer comparable services that keep Google on its toes.
We’ve got a list of ten alternatives to the most commonly used Google services, followed by services from alternative developers to give you more information on the available alternatives. There are some cases where Google indeed has a superior offering to its competitors, but there are also instances where a particular user might favor an alternative product.