AOL Hard to Cancel, Might Get Sold

Buy AOL?

I have a tutorial to write and an older post to rework and republish this week, and I’d like to do a rip, I mean, a review of myAOL and Mgnet, but I’ll touch quickly on what’s going on this week with AOL…wow, not much isn’t.

First off, if you haven’t heard about AOL’s class-action settlement with 47 states by now (or 48, if you count the one state that didn’t participate but is covered, and if you conveniently forget the District of Columbia altogether, which is also covered) you probably don’t have a pulse.

I found an excellent article in the Contra-Costa Times (page no longer exists) that might sum up what everyone’s thinking: it’s not the first time 47 states have gone after AOL for misleading, deceptive, and difficult cancellation practices, and it might not be the last.

$3 million to cover court costs for the states is a slap on the hand for a company that settled with 47 states for the same reason in 1998 and has settled at least five similar lawsuits brought by various states since then.

No one thinks this settlement will cure what ails AOL…namely, greed. It’s a shame we can’t look forward to a better day for the company formerly known as America Online, the company most famous for actually putting most of America online, but greed warps whatever it touches.

Secondly, while a recent post of mine might have made me seem psychic about AOL’s future, (thank you for thinking so), it doesn’t take a psychic to realize AOL is in trouble, with a subscriber pool that’s plunged from 22 million to 12 million in the last two years, online metrics that prove while people spend more time on AOL than on any other site, most of them are only picking up email and chatting on AIM, and securities fraud charges AOL cannot escape seven years after being exposed for them by the Washington Post.

A few days after posting the latest about AOL’s fraud, no less than Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield weighed in on the state of AOL, as told by Forbes. He upgraded Time Warner stock from Neutral to Buy, not because he thinks AOL might improve, but because he thinks it will be sold within the next year.

An excellent flow-chart at News Visual reignited talk that AOL will be sold to Yahoo. Parsons and Terry Semel were talking together at the recent Allen & Company media conference: Terry Semel was once Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Time Warner, so maybe it wasn’t just a patio chair Parsons was looking to sell, after all.