AOL really is losing 4 execs!

AOL Swings the Axe

Edited/updated 12-22-2006.

12-13-2006: I like Vallywag. You know the blurb on their site? The one that goes:

You people in Silicon Valley are far too busy changing the world to care about sex, greed and hypocrisy.

Well, count me out. I’m never too busy to catch up on all the latest greed and hypocrisy coming out of AOL, and I don’t live in Silicon Valley, either, so I’m an easily attainable demographic. If you add in Jason Calacanis just for fun (read: because he’s an idiot) I can barely tear myself away.

Valleywag said recently that four AOL execs (John McKinley, chief financial officer, Kevin Conroy, product manager, James Bankoff, executive vice president of consumer and publisher services, and Joseph Redling, chairman and chief executive of AOL International) were getting the ax. They were the only site that had the news, so I wondered if the author, Nick Denton, had, you know, lost his mind, but he seemed quite sure of his unnamed source’s info. Jason was upset by it so he started flapping around in the comment section like a fish without oxygen:

Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible to let go of four top guys like that after losing Miller and Leonsis.

I say this is 99% false.

Then he added, as a side note:

As a side note, if AOL did let go of [sic] there guys it would be a really, really bad move. These guys know what they are doing and would get gigs at Fox, Yahoo, Microsoft, CBS, etc. in about 10 seconds. I’ve worked with all four of these guys [sic] are they all get it. These are the good guys… these are the guys you *don’t* let walk out the door. These are the guys who made the huge jump in advertising revenue happen in my mind.

Nick: can you say where you got this info from? Is it an anon tip? Was it from inside the company? The way you wrote this one it looks like a fact–is it?

Wow…a ten second turnaround on unemployment and an ad revenue jump that happened in his mind? You have to love the illiterati for the mysteries they foist on us like we should know what they’re talking about…but, wait…Jason forgot he replied to himself, so he rewrote the comment and replied to himself again:

Also, where did you get this tip? You’re stating it as a fact, but is this a rumor or a tip? By email?

I don’t think this is true.

These are four very smart guys. I worked with each of them personally and they are not the kind of guys you let walk out the door. These guys would get job offers in 10 seconds from CBS, Fox, Yahoo, Microsoft, IAC, etc. if they were let go.

These are the guys who did the turn around and got the advertising revenue to spike–why would you let them go?!?!?! It makes zero sense to me.

This is bad information I’m sure of it.

Clearly, anyone who’s re-employable ten seconds after being fired is an awe-inspiring example, not just for Jason, but for all of us. Jason can’t even get hired within his own industry and he missed his ten-second mark for getting hired by any company that would have him by almost TWO WEEKS, and Jon Miller was the only one with enough sense to get the ad revenue to “spike,” as he so blandly understated AOL’s mega-increase. Let’s overlook all of that for now, because Jason barely gave sarahKeller993 enough time to spit out a reply before spitting back:

Just talked to a couple of folks… they say this is not true.

Nick Denton was learning that Jason would spontaneously combust all over the comment section if someone “in charge” didn’t say something STAT so he wrote:

Well, let’s see how this plays out. Will post updates.

Maybe Nick was psyched out by the sheer speed and velocity of Jason’s rantings because his next comment, in reply to his first, is quite frankly unbelievable:

from a tipster: just a friendly fyi – internal skuttlebutt is that conroy/mckinley are fine…mckinley was actually just asked to stay. bankoff’s name is on a few lists, but that doesn’t seem to be true. reidling’s out.

Uh-oh. Humble Pie Time. Watch Jason take the rope that he doesn’t know is tied around his own neck and adroitly hang himself with it in his reply to CK’s snipe at Nick:

CK, you nailed the Nick Denton school of journalism:

1. Post a rumor as fact (“opps… did I forget to source that one?!”)

2. Let everyone respond to the fishing expedition/get the traffic

3. Place an “oh, I guess I was wrong” in the comments long after folks have read the headline and moved on to the next lie.

4. Go back to step one: slam another competitor

Let’s not clue Jason in to the fact that Valleywag and AOL aren’t exactly “competitors,” nor point out to him that Nick is quoting an unnamed source. He’s foaming so we’ll let him finish his rabid chew of Nick’s ass, after Nick apologizes:

Jason, this once, you’re right. I should have tagged that post much more clearly, as a rumor. We’re still waiting to hear something more definitive; that Reuters item doesn’t get into the senior execs. Once we do, we’ll update the post itself. Or write a new one.

This is the stuff that all Internet tragedies are made of. At this point Jason jumped on such a big high-horse you had to crane your neck just to imagine the evil smile on his face:

but Nick… now that you have reports that this is not true, and you admit you misrepresented the truth I have to ask the question: why wouldn’t you correct the story above?

You were a real journalist at one point right? I mean that seriously… I know you’re a gossip and porn publisher now, but you well know that when you make a mistake on a blog you correct it in the post.

Frankly, I think you are making a huge mistake by playing these games. You have a lot of good insights as a business person and if you stopped trying to trick folks I think Valleywag would become worth reading.

I guess if you acted in a responsible way that would hurt your image huh?!

you pal,


Oh, I see…Nick is a gossip and porn publisher so he has zero credibility…now that he’s pissed off Jason Calacanis. I doubt such fodder could ever hurt Nick’s image, but when I see comments signed “you pal” (you’re not even supposed to sign comments, dumbass) I have visions of Jason running away from the sandbox with his bucket and shovel to whine at other kids on the playground, refusing to speak to “his pal” Nick again until he says, “I SORRY!”

Valleywag got the last word in without Nick ever saying another word to Jason about it, and damned if he wasn’t right. The triumphant title of their followup was FUCKING WAY:

No fucking way, said Jason Calacanis, would Randy Falco’s new regime at AOL let go half of the online media unit’s management team. But it’s happened. Of the four execs Valleywag said were out, three are indeed gone. CTO John McKinley disclosed his departure in a Valleywag comment. Paid Content now confirms that Jim Bankoff, the exec behind the acquisition of Weblogs, Inc., and AOL’s popular entertainment site,, is also leaving; as is Joe Redling, who headed up AOL Mobile. The execs had been slated to report to Ron Grant, a veteran dropped in by parent company Time Warner as COO of the online media unit; there was no way they were going to see that as anything other than a demotion.

My way of celebrating was to look up more sources for the story, and no less than Forbes, Bloomberg News, and Reuters were breaking it as well.

That merely adds to the 444 people given the shove at their Dulles, Virginia corporate headquarters, 50 more biting the dust at the Tuscon, Arizona call center, and up to 200 outsourced AOL Israeli call staffers about to lose their jobs (page no longer exists) after AOL cut off a contract with IDT Outsourcing, which puts my “unofficial” prediction of between 4,000-5,000 layoffs this year at AOL right on target. The Israeli call center is the first of 15 call centers worldwide AOL will shut down in their bid to make money exclusively off of…whoops, I mean off of advertising, period. Of course that’s what I meant…

To console themselves, dispirited employees passed around links to photos of Annual AOL Christmas Layoff t-shirts, with cutesy quotes on them such as “Dude, where’s my job?,” “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” and “Merry Fucking Christmas.”

The race isn’t to the swiftest…an update.

12-22-2006: I know bad information abounds; it’s when other sites report it as fact that I get a little hot. For instance, most sites say that Jon Miller “left” AOL. He did not leave; he was fired. Jon still had another three years on a contract he just signed with AOL, leading to outrage from many underlings like “his pal,” Jason, who was compelled to follow his dust right out of there.

In the same vein, it’s hard, but not impossible, to gather the truth about the four execs (whoops, now it’s five) “leaving” AOL. Nick Denton screwed up in claiming they would be fired, when in fact, their exodus is a series of voluntary resignations, some inspired by a staunch refusal to work for anyone else but Miller. He also claimed Kevin Conroy was fired, when in fact he was given a promotion.

I give Nick and Valleywag credit for having the faith to trust a source that turned out to be mostly right, but in their haste to put content on the Web and get into search engine “News” results as quickly as possible, many bloggers and reporters write any unsourceable, wispy rumor like it’s a fact and never correct themselves when better sources come along. I take the stance that the news about AOL is usually so bad, I’ll never need to resort to any confusing or unethical tactics just to share it with you.