In a completely unscientific poll, I've only found two unwavering optimists who think AOL will be a 21st Century phoenix and rise up to be great again. The first is me (an AOL user for 15 years)--the second is CEO Tim Armstrong.
There may be others, but most of what I see is pessimistic headshaking, and confusion around Armstrong's strategy.
The thing I like about AOL right now is Arnstrong himself. He strikes me as someone who has a disruptive vision. and a true passion for the goal.
The problem is, Wall Street, and Main Street don't like to see the mucky murkiness that's involved with change. Wall Street wants profits, and Main Street wants immediacy. Armstrong currently is delivering neither.
A source for a New York Post article said of AOL: "It doesn't help to be doing a turnaround in public. They could be more bold and take more risks."
The goal seems clear--to re-build AOL into the next great Internet media empire. But the path to greatness can have potholes, and it can take awhile.
At a time when Armstrong is investing millions into content and partnership deals, most media companies are shedding their expensive journalists like a winter coat at a Fourth of July picnic in Texas. The company lost $11.8 million in Q2, and the stock price is headed in the wrong direction.
Armstrong said a turnaround would take until 2013. That means that he hopes to be given permission by Wall Street and Main Street to stick with his strategy without showing returns while still being a public company--something painful to watch (and a bit unheard of in American business), but for the risk-takers, a potential long-term positive investment.
I say we need to give Armstrong a chance to tear apart the old AOL, and create a 21st Century Disney and the 21st Century CNN all rolled into one. CNN Money calls him a "romantic" for envisioning such a company. I call him a visionary.
What visionaries and romantics have in common if they are successful, is the willingness to take risks. And rebuilding AOL is a giant risk. Armstrong is investing in Patch--a nationwide network of local newsites, and Huffington Post--essentially buying Arianna Huffington's ballsy muscle to creating a great editorial staff. But building costs money--a lot of it. And profits are going to lag investments. There is only hope and optimism tied to AOL profitability.
Of course, the best aspect of risk is the potential rewards it can reap. I wish Armstrong and AOL the best, and will be a Superfan while they're doing it.
Source: CNN Money