AOL turned 25 today, prompting Chief Executive Tim Armstrong to make the rounds with co-founder Steve Case to celebrate the milestone. AOL has a colorful and much chronicled history, which we won’t go into detail here. What is most interesting to this reporter is not AOL’s past but rather its plan to pitch itself forward as a content company just at the point when traditional media — we’re looking at you newspapers – are undergoing wrenching operational changes.
Yet AOL executives believe there is a vein to mine and have been snapping up professional journalists while casting wide nets to capture “citizen reporters” eager to get their names out by covering the goings-on and activities at the neighborhood level. AOL is hiring expensive professionals to complement inexpensive user-generated content tied to search engine optimization. Ad dollars, the company hopes, should follow thanks to its technology platforms that AOL believes can maximize ad revenue.
When asked about advertising opportunities going forward during an interview today, Armstrong relayed this story –days after upbeat broadcast executives unveiled their prime time programming to advertisers known as the upfronts.
Armstrong had met with one of of the top 20 advertisers in the world last week and said, “This was the first year that they have actually planned digital before they did their TV upfronts. I think that is a trend happening in the industry. … [The] industry analysis is probably undercounting the fact that you are seeing fundamental shifts that people are starting to plan digital before they plan the TV upfronts. My guess is there will be more and more pressure in that direction going forward.”