Shame On CNN

11-22-2006: CNN did a bad thing in the “eyes” of search engine spiders, Google Pidgeon Rank™ and other indices of web page spamiliciousness: they duped their own content about Yahoo! acquiring AOL, then changed the date for it. I’m a bit of a prig, so before I even knew what was happening, my keyboard was tapping out comments to blogs.marketwatch.com (page no longer exists). While I’m no fan of Google, why let a site get penalized for what they warn webmasters not to do in Webmaster Guidelines?

“…the “Quality Guidelines”…outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index.”

One practice you should avoid:

“Don’t create multiple pages, sub-domains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

Cnn.com isn’t exactly a train-wreck of spam and duped pages — yet — but I hate to see it come to that, so I pointed out to Blogs Market Watch that the article is not “news” in the classic sense. They posted an updated story saying that I have the links to both articles (they mispelled my name, but mentioned me in the same breath as Henry Blodget, so all is forgiven). This is Fortune’s original story; this is the dupe. The first URL is to their index.html copy; the second is to their monthly magazine archive. I have one question: Why did CNN change the date, the title, AND the subtitle? They might fool the search engines with those tactics, but they didn’t fool me.

AOL One of the Worst Acquisitions Ever

11-22-2006: AOL made the list of ten worst Internet acquisitions ever, down there at #2. What a gnarl-up TW’s grab for them was. Since acquiring AOL, TW has paid $750 million to settle a horrendous accounting fraud scandal, two states have sued AOL for deceptive cancellation policies, the FTC went after AOL for consumer complaints, and they’ve lost 13 million subscribers…that’s just what I can reel off the top of my head. Way to blow whatever they had going for them…what was it, again?

Yahoo New Search Leader, AOL Trailing

11-22-2006: From IBM Watch (page no longer exists), some surprising news: Yahoo beat Google for most growth in searches this quarter, while AOL holds steady at just 6% of all searches (roughly 323,000 a month) on their tacky swipe of Google’s search engine.

Randy Falco Likes the Extra “Space”

11-21-2006: Randy Falco says he’s “…fascinated by the Internet space,” which, as we know, connects to a series of tubes that empty out into AOL’s cache servers (does anyone recall their more scorned “features,” like day-old content?) He continues: “It reminds me a lot about network television 30 years ago”, but won’t say why. You need to know he was in charge of distributing videos to TV stations at nbbc, not running a web portal, nor software development. His NBC bio lists him as in charge of “information technology,” among other things, and he brings ops strength from his former role, but you’d never know by what’s coming out of his mouth.

I Can Really Write

11-19-2006: All writers rip each other off, so if a big name rips me off, I take it as a compliment. In my August News, I wrote that for the first time ever, AOL was giving software and content away for free and asked readers, “Are they insane? No, they’re Google — or might be soon…)” What does David Pogue ask his readers just a few days ago? “Was AOL nuts? Should its executives be dragged away by the nice men in white coats?” Deja vu, even if it was (I’m pretty sure) unintentional.

Jon Miller Fired, so Jason Calacanis Quits

11-17-2006: What a week: Jason Calacanis quit less than a day after Jon Miller was fired/replaced by Randy Falco, former president of NBC Universal Television. Yeah, my jaw dropped. With Jason gone, my bet is AOL wakes from their self-induced coma long enough to change Netscape’s landing page back to a portal, which, while cluttered and devoid of any gripping, must-see content, was better (in my eyes) than their pale rip-off of Digg’s social bookmarking.

With less than 100 “‘scapes” per story (“‘scapes!” what a laugh) Netscape is quite the failure, and surely the reason Jason lost confidence in his abilities (“I wouldn’t want to manage someone like myself” being the most telling comment of all). Well, who would? Pie in the sky dreams (like buying off Wikipedia for leaderboard space, thinking his site can compete with Digg, etc.) don’t go over well at TW…and that surprises him, THIS late in the game? His flair for drama, easily seen in the tons of fights and hissy-fits all over his blog, must’ve made AOL aghast at his unprofessionalism.

If anyone’s hoping for a breath of fresh air coming from the regime change, don’t: I have no idea if Jason will be replaced by anyone I like, but Falco’s Jon Miller all over again, with the same out-of-touch attitude, praise for the “fine folks” (to Miller, that’s “wonderful people”) slaving under him at AOL and penchant for verbal fluff that did NOT endear Jon to my heart or soul at any moment. Well, good luck, AOL; I hate kicking you while you’re down.

Passe, Staid, Stale…Same Thing

11-10-2006: AOL claims portals are passe? No, they’re just “staid,” CEO Jon Miller told a Web 2.0 conference. At least he’s honest…Miller wants to pin AOL’s underwhelming Portal Renaissance on Relegance (2-10-2010: looks like Relegance no longer exists), but I say, why bother? The last thing anyone needs is a crappy toolbar hogging up precious pixels. According to relegance.com, “The FirstTrack client application sits as a toolbar-sized display at the bottom of one’s screen.” Say it with me now: thanks, but NO.

Lots more laughs: Jon says getting out of the ISP business and giving away software “…paid off.” He forgets (or just fails to mention) most of AOL’s recent ad revenue comes from advertising.com’s sales, up 90% for the quarter. (They’re owned by AOL, but don’t advertise on AOL.com, so what does their profitability have to do with AOL’s new strategy? That’s right, nothing.) Then Jon calls the release of over 658,000 members’ search terms “…entirely well meaning.” Comedy Gold.

They Say Black, I See Red

11-02-2006: So far AOL’s losing their bet that giving content away for ad revenue will pay off. Revenue’s down 3% for the third quarter, at $1.91 billion. They’ve lost 2.5 million paid subscribers. That leaves 15.2 million people, who bring in most of their income, compared to as many as 26 million in 2003 (the year they were accused of inflating subscriptions and ad revenue).

They say ad revenue increased 46%, to $479 million, but: “Revenue at Advertising.com, a division of AOL that operates as a display ad network selling ads on a large number [of] Web sites, grew 90 percent.” Not only that, AOL’s trying to paint declining visits (down 6%) in a positive light: “…[it] was an improvement because they had been declining 15 percent or more.” Oh, so that’s why I should break out the champagne…

Advertising.com has a great quarter; AOL.com DOES NOT.

11-02-2006: For the first time in years, Time Warner has something to brag about: a 300% surge in profits fueled in small part by AOL’s ad revenue. When the office parties stop, AOL faces a tough question: how will they finally make their website and software profitable? Wall Street doesn’t think they can; TW shares are down 17 cents to $19.84 after the announcement.

Ad sales are up 46%, but most of that is from ad.com’s sales, according to Wayne Pace, TW’s CFO. Ad.com sells ad space on third party websites, but not on AOL.com, according to businessweek: “The company buys ad space from 3,000 sites and resells it to about 500 clients…” (Ahem. ad.com even settled with the FTC in 2005 for using adware, then cut ties to adware/spyware partners at AOL’s request.)

Plastering AOL with Doubleclick ads won’t help, with visits down 6% from last quarter, most coming for webmail.aol.com, and only 7% visiting the site itself (Alexa (page no longer exists)). So the question is, how can a “medium” sized, “extremely slow-loading” site and an infamously resource-consuming, hard-to-uninstall portal be profitable when AOL has less visitors and organic revenue than ever? Mr. Parsons, sell it to Yahoo! while it still inks any profit at all.