Feb 1, 2011

"The AOL Way" is to get hits

AOL has a feverish case of hit-count lust. After creating Patch and investing in content creators, as it likes to call journalists, AOL has developed an aggressive plan for profitability that seems sure to grind the hell out of its editorial employees. The Business Insider got a copy of memo (really an excessively jargon-filled power point presentation) that outlines ways to boost traffic. Here's part of BI's summary (the "he" refers to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong):
By April, he wants AOL editorial to increase its stories per month from 33,000 to 55,000.
He wants pageviews per story to jump from 1,500 to 7,000.
He wants video stories to go from being 4% of all stories produced to 70%.
He wants the percentage of stories optimized for search engines to reach 95%.
All of which means many more "stories" from AOL staffers (five to 10 a day is the goal), with a keen eye on money metrics. The plan includes almost nothing about editorial goals, quality, or better coverage. It's machine journalism at its rawest - or what AOL management would call "The AOL Way," a name that rightly deserves to be ridiculed.

One journalist who joined AOL offered this response to Business Insider:
"AOL is the most f-----up, b------t company on earth," says one, who joined AOL in what he calls, "the worst career move I've ever made." 
An October 2010 study argues against turning online editorial into a content farm, saying better stories generate better ad revenue. But the insane valuation of Demand Media, said to be worth more than $1 billion, is certain to change minds.


Speaking of AOL's Patch network, I received a message from a Patch contributor who told me AOL plans to cut 30-50 percent out of freelance budgets. I'm not sure whether "The AOL Way" applies to Patch writers, but a smaller freelance budget means community editors will have fewer resources to create more content. Doesn't that sound familiar?


Anonymous said...

Dean, where are you, papa? It wasn't so bad after all....

Anonymous said...

Wait. I thought Patch reporters were supposed to be all about “Bull-dog” reporting instincts, a willingness to ask tough questions of important people and solid news judgment - all in the job ad.

Oh well. Go shoot video of the plays and parades.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, who didn't see this coming?

Anonymous said...

Patch or MNG? ... Patch or MNG? ... Patch or MNG?

Would you rather be shot or hanged?

Anonymous said...

AOL Patch is D.O.A. AOL has a long track record of turning everything it touches into crud. Why would this be any different?