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Archive for June 1st, 2009|Daily archive page

Merge ‘n’ Purge.

In Media on June 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

AOL Logo and Time Warner Logo - Mario Tama/Getty Images

The bigger it was, the harder it fell.  News broke late last week that AOL and Time Warner are breaking up.  Theirs was the largest merger in history, hailed as a monumental move, creating a powerhouse media entity.  Instead, it turned into a lengthy exercise in corporate bulimia.

Remember when the news first broke about the merger?  The two companies were already so big and unwieldy that at first nobody knew who was taking over whom.  And that’s when AOL was AOL and web service meant a free trial CD in People.

It’s striking how frequently statements gloss over failure and paint them as success.  AOL’s recently named chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong, formerly of Google’s ad unit, called the separation “a great opportunity for AOL.  Becoming a standalone public company positions AOL to strengthen its core business, deliver new and innovative products and services, and enhance our strategic options.”

Remember when AOL was a core business with its own publicly traded stock?  What would have been the shame in saying, “AOL Time Warner was a promising, tempting media experiment on a grand scale that gradually went sour.  As you’ve seen, it has had some problems and we’re hitting the ‘Undo’ button to get back to our roots.”  A) The press would have given him credit for treating them like they had gone through puberty and B) He is the umpteenth CEO that AOL has had in the last decade, so he could have said that credibly and without blame.

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