The Internet company AOL was a giant in the early days of the web as Americans got online, experimenting with email and chat rooms.
But after a decade of losing market share to competitors like Google — not to mention a disastrous merger with Time Warner that remains one for the history books — AOL is hoping to reinvent itself. But even that’s been a rocky road.
CEO Tim Armstrong’s been at the helm of the company since 2009. He admits the company still has a long way to go, “We’re in the middle of one of the most difficult turnarounds in corporate history.” But three years in, he says he’s happy with AOL’s progress.
He doesn’t see the company’s legacy as an email and dial-up provider to be detrimental. “I think most people use AOL everyday — right now they don’t know that they use it. We own the Huffington Post and Tech Crunch and MapQuest and Moviefone. And locally in 900 towns we own a site called Patch.”
Armstrong says he hopes 2013 will be a year to fix any misconceptions about what “the AOL of today is.” The company was supposed to roll out a new ad campaign last night but decided to delay. Armstrong said, “My job at the company is to hold the threshold of quality and excellence and doing things that are spectacular.”
He talked about his decision to attend auditions for dancers featured in the commercial: “Part of the brand campaign that we have been working on has been putting real consumers in commercials and I saw a thousand AOL consumers come into our building and I think any successful business, whether you’re the CEO or whether you’re the first day on the job, understanding the consumers that you deal with is probably the most important thing you can do. So, I only spend my time on things that are going to add huge value to the company and I think that was a good use of time.”
AOL’s rebranding efforts will continue but in the meantime, we asked Armstrong to describe the company in five words.
Tim Armstrong: AOL will be the best connected, most shared, and most impactful brand and media company with a technology platform in the world.
Kai Ryssdal: All right, so she could do it in five words either. I’m going to give you another whack in the apple, go ahead.
Armstrong: The best media and technology brand company in the world.
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