When it was recently reported that Aol’s assets were worth more than it’s market cap (and as such, it would be worth more if it were to be chopped up and sold in bits), I was surprised to find myself overcome with sadness.
It turns out, I want Aol to win.
There are without question some very silly things about Aol.
There was last year’s bizarre “Beat the Internet” poster depicting a six-limbed wiener-like thing that was apparently designed to motivate the staff. This year, David Eun, former head of the media division, upped the ante with his jiggy motivational video (okay, I actually quite enjoyed it). There was the baffling restructuring into “towns” and “mayors”. (Heather Harde, one-time CEO of TechCrunch had the misfortune of becoming co-mayor of tech town after Aol's acquisition of her site). Even their recently outed expense approval process is very, very silly.
But there’s also a “little engine that could” quality about Aol that I, a cynical, bitter old newspaper hack, find irresistible.
Think about it, this is a company that has had eleven straight years of layoffs and more executive firings and re-orgs than any single human being can possibly keep track of. (I believe the major re-org count is three this year alone.) They’ve also endured very public infighting and wide-spread censure over the disastrous “Aol Way” strategic plan. Even the (I believe, very smart) acquisition of the Huffington Post has been met with derision and skepticism.
It’s true that I don’t agree with everything they’re doing. Lord knows they still have a lot to learn about monetizing content. And I’m especially concerned about the big bet on Patch.
Despite all that, I believe that my soft spot for Aol comes from the fact that they keep their heads up and just keep going. And they do so under constant media scrutiny. (SAI alone produces 10 to 15 pieces a week on Aol.)
They’re not complaining, they’re not saying that they world isn’t fair, they’re not retreating and they’re not protecting the old at the expense of the new.
Maybe I'm a sucker, but I respect that.
So Godspeed Aol. I truly hope you make it.