AOL aspires to be a 1990s publishing powerhouse; arms dealer

January 6, 2011

Tim Armstrong AOL

Tech nerds and gadget geeks over the age of 35 should have no trouble recalling the company Ziff Davis — a former publishing powerhouse home to such magazines as Computer World, PC Week and Red Herring. Ziff’s glory days were in the 1980s and 1990s and it scaled dizzying heights as its magazines groaned under the strain of advertising. Media observers would weigh issues of say Computer World for sport not unlike putting the September issue of fashion mags on the scales.

In 1995, a majority of Ziff was sold to SoftBank for $2.1 billion. Yet, Ziff’s storyline is familiar to a wide swath of Silicon Valley companies that prospered in the late 90s.  The tech bubble popped and by the late naughts Ziff Davis Media headed to bankruptcy court.

Ziff Davis is apparently on the mind of Tim Armstrong (pictured) . The AOL chairman and CEO invoked the company yesterday during his presentation at the Citigroup Media, Entertainment and Telecom conference.

Here is Armstrong explaining how TechCruch and other assets such as Engadget are material to AOL:

“If you even go back to look at the valuations of a Ziff Davis or companies like that in the tech space, AOL has assets that considerably could be considered the Ziff Davis of the Internet.”

Also: AOL wants to be an arms dealer. Here is Armstrong on why Facebook is not a threat:

“So in our business we have the content we are building for ourselves. We also have a pretty growing, large growing business for building content for advertisers that lets them take advantage of those platforms as well. So I think we are the ammunition. For the war that is going on in Silicon Valley, AOL wants to be the arms dealer.

(Photo: Reuters)

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