AOL CEO Tim Armstrong at TechCrunch Disrupt: Content Still Rules (and Will Make Money. Eventually)

Long an apparent candidate for permanent obscurity after its ill-fated merger with Time Warner, the now-independent AOL has been getting more interesting lately. That’s thanks to its high-profile acquisitions of prominent online brands such as TechCrunch and Huffington Post as well as some interesting services such as About.me. So I’m tuning into the livestream of CEO Tim Armstrong‘s interview with TechCrunch editor Mike Arrington at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Is any of this stuff going to work? Can you make money off all this content? Armstrong: Yes (what else did you expect?). I love the fact that people think content isn’t a good business. It keeps other people out of it and attracts people who believe in it.

Will you do other deals? Armstrong: Holding off for now, but there could be more. I have a list in my head and ongoing discussions with people in this space. I see five or 10 companies in this space that are interesting.

Q: Yahoo? Amstrong: Implies no, not surprisingly.

Q: What would you do to run Yahoo? Armstrong: We had a leadership meeting in California recently with Yahoo executives. We were talking about what it takes to be a great company. One is having a real clear vision for the future. Second is having a clear execution plan with metrics. Third is culture, a good culture.

Q: What’s the deal with all the Thursday night drinking parties, given AOL’s official rules against drinking on the job? Armstrong: Doesn’t answer. It doesn’t have to do with drinking. It has to do with the culture we’re trying to create.

Q: When will you start monetizing the products being developed in Brad Garlinghouse‘s group (in Palo Alto)? Armstrong: I’ve told Brad for the new products I’m not concerned about monetization. I’m concerned about consumer usage. We’re working on nailing the consumer DNA.

Q: Won’t AOL and Yahoo be the same company in a year? Armstrong: Why? Arrington: Both companies are struggling. Armstrong: We clearly know where we’re going. We have more work to do. But we’re making tremendous progress. On target to get to industry growth rate in the second half of the year. I don’t think there’s any competitive dynamic in the market that prevents us from being successful.

Q (from Google’s Don Dodge): Why don’t paywalls work and why does local content monetize terribly? Armstrong: Local content doesn’t monetize terribly. I think local is going to monetize at a great level. Paywalls do work. How you pay matters a lot. Micropayments? Our strategy has been free content but I am a long-term believer in paid content for the Web. We’re at the start of the next evolution for content.

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