Why all the hate for AOL?

aol logoEver since AOL’s “AOL Way” manifesto was leaked, I’ve scratched my head over all the fuss. This is an internal PowerPoint designed to spread the business mission of the company among its employees. It’s back in the news this week, because editor Paul Miller has quit AOL’s Engadget over what he describes as AOL being “an unwilling partner” in the evolution of Engadget. He’s used the manifesto to detail his angst for all the world to see.

It doesn’t take a veteran of the publishing world to realize that AOL has its heart in the wrong place with content. As detailed in the “AOL Way,” and borne out in personal experience, AOL sees content as a commodity it can sell ads against. That might make good business sense (though I doubt it), but it doesn’t promote good journalism or even good entertainment, and it doesn’t allow an ambitious team like the one I know and love at Engadget to thrive.

I will admit that I have no personal experience with what it’s like to work with AOL, but I’ve read this “AOL Way” and just don’t get the fuss. Mr. Miller is doubtless a fine writer, editor and journalist, but this feels an awful lot like one of those multi-sided stories about which we only have one view.

The world of journalism is overflowing today with confusion and concern about its future. There are wonderful minds dedicated to figuring out how to pay for the news and lots of stories about how “real” journalism is losing the battle. Everybody wants to go back to the days of double-digit automatic growth, when operating as a profit center didn’t mean necessarily playing by the rules. That’s all gone, and when anybody actually tries something about making money today, these same people start groaning about how it violates some ethical mandate of purity. We can’t have it both ways, folks. Not. Gonna. Do. It.

I’ve followed Tim Armstrong’s efforts since taking over the reins at AOL. I support and have written about his anti-portal strategy, and I think the guy’s pretty smart. His purchases of TechCrunch and The Huffington Post were both smart strategy, so I think the guy really does understand content and advertising. I’m willing to give him a chance, which is why I find stories like Miller’s departure so difficult to embrace.

What do you want, people? Moving big rocks up a hill is a job for folks with courage, strength, vision and purpose. Sitting back waiting for one to roll downhill, so you can criticize the effort is for malingering, lazy jackwagons (love that word) who have nothing better to do.


  1. What do we want? Great content, first of all. Was something wrong with the Engadget before AOL, monetization-wise? I think we people just do not want media to be produced the “AOL Way”…

  2. I don’t hate AOL. But I do wonder “what’s the point?” You know, raison d’être?


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