AOL: How America Gets Online!
Here’s a quiz: name one company that got its start as an online service called Gameline for Atari and grew so big that they soon adopted a motto claiming they were the Internet – or at least the only way most people could access it.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In the 19 years since America Online took the country by storm with easy access to chat rooms, message boards and websites, and even introduced simple technology to allow the serfdom to mail letters to one another through the hourly-rated ether, their Kingdom has fallen to access issues, lousy customer service, internal mismanagement and fraud, and a tragic rebirth as something they never knew how to be in the first place and still can’t become after roughly 15 years of trying: an advertising conglomerate.
As reported in Silicon Alley Insider this week, Richard Greenfield, Managing Director of media investments for Pali Research, a fairly new addition to the brokerage firm Pali Capital, has some tough questions for Time Warner, making SAI writer Peter Kafka remark that “for understandable reasons, [they] are presumably no longer speaking to him”.
His toughest questions are for AOL, but his blog requires that you sign up with a corporate email address to read them. After I complained about it on the SAI blog, the requirement for a corporate email address was temporarily lifted, allowing me to create an account and copy Mr. Greenfield’s post for my personal records, but according to my email with him today, the corporate email address requirement is again in effect.
03-04-2007: Updated and recalculated after AOL’s latest settlement. Updated again 03-11-2007, 4-02-2007 and 5-10-2007.
AOL is painting their bad news in a positive light. Now they claim a recent stack of accounting fraud lawsuits against them are going to be paid for with a special fund that they set up years ago with $20 million, that they added another $600 million to in Dec. 2006. They’re wrong. They’re not even close to telling the truth.
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.”
Fortune Magazine says Time Warner, their parent company, is in talks with Yahoo! to buy AOL. A source at TW denies it, but Yahoo! sources say it’s true. Yahoo! lost their chance last year after AOL inked a deal to give Google 5% of revenue in return for ads and search optimization that AOL lacks over dynamically linked pages and other shortcomings. They haven’t made the how-to-cancel page much easier to find, either.
No Ads on Wikipedia, For Now … AOL Sells Call Centers; Others to Close
10-28-2006: Jason Calacanis, who runs Netscape for AOL and thinks he can wave his Magic Money Wand and buy the world, and even buy your humble author (page no longer exists ), tried to buy Wikipedia last week. He claims by not letting AOL put leaderboards on Wiki pages, they’ll lose ad revenue to the tune of $100 million a year. “Jimbo” Wales rolled Jason’s offer around, even asking members what they’d do with that money. Then in a stunning about-face he told Jason “No,” and was applauded for not letting AOL’s sponsorship control Wikipedia.
10-14-2006: The Consumerist says AOL’s laying off 1,400 call reps “trained to trick you into not canceling your AOL account,” when they close their Albuquerque, NM, and Tucson, AZ centers and sell their Ogden, UT call center “in mid-December, just in time for Christmas.” Wow, not even an AOL-branded lump of coal for brainwashing us into thinking we must have it: “Free anti-virus software! Parental controls! Keywords! (give me a f***ing break) Ads, ads, more ads, AIM, chat rooms!” Oh wait, maybe they don’t say all that…The Consumerist is clucking unhappily that the Ogden center’s been sold to a company that will hang onto every AOL employee except John, but it’s quite common for AOL to outsource them. Contract workers can’t be much worse, I promise you.