Everyone remembers the AOL dial-up noise, which sounded like you were trying to call space, but then somehow got interrupted by a monsoon. AOL was the web destination of the ’90s.
With its anachronistic topic portals (”Computing”, ”Reference Desk”, “Marketplace”), Instant Messenger service, and infamous “You’ve Got Mail!” greeting, AOL set the standard for how we communicate and consume information online.
But in the years since its heyday, AOL has struggled to keep up with the second generation of online brands.
Two years ago, former Google executive Tim Armstrong jumped to AOL’s sinking ship to become the company’s Chairman and CEO, and set out to re-brand the once-mighty Internet service provider as a content company.
Armstrong has focused on building a comprehensive roster of content brands and services to be operated under the AOL umbrella. These acquisitions include tech blog TechCrunch, video content platform 5min Media, and about.me, a site that aggregates all of a user’s online identities into one profile.
AOL’s biggest – and most prominent – acquisition took place earlier this year when it bought the Huffington Post for a reported $315 million dollars, and named the site’s namesake, Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group.
Armstrong has also set his sights on fostering hyper-local newsgathering communities. In June 2009 AOL acquired Patch.com, “a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”
Sparksheet editor Dan Levy caught up with Tim Armstrong in the (very noisy) backstage area at 140conf to discuss AOL’s increasing focus on original content and how the company is leveraging local communities to create some of it.