GigaOM Interview: AOL's COO Ron Grant on the Bebo Buy

7 Comments

This morning after AOL said it would spend $850 million to buy social networking site Bebo, I had a chance to chat with Ron Grant, AOL’s chief operating officer. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

OM: Why Bebo?

GRANT: Bebo is one of the best social media companies out there. They are more than a one-dimensional company, and they have embraced their social media space. Three things attracted us — it is utilitarian and has a high level of engagement, its rich media aspect, and their ability to understand marketing and engagement marketing.

OM: What are the plans? Why can AOL make it work where MySpace and Facebook have challenges?

GRANT: Bebo is going to be a cornerstone of our global expansion. It is difficult to monetize with search, but a good platform to monetize with display advertising. Platform A has a better opportunity to monetize this. Bebo provides a unique relationship with advertising. It is different from search and search keywords.

OM: How will Bebo fit in with AOL?

GRANT: This is one of our core focuses, and this is going to add assets to the mix. It will stand alone from the unit and we will talk more about it when the deal closes.

OM: What’s going on with this deal and Time Warner’s plans for AOL? It’s like Time Warner is schizophrenic.

GRANT: The whole focus has been the turnaround of AOL, making this a viable company and creating long-term value. Regarding speculation around Time Warner, we in AOL are getting support. Time Warner spent a billion on acquisitions for Platform A and now another $850 million. We have been getting tremendous support from Time Warner to build long-term value for this company.

OM: Are there online video synergies with Bebo and Time Warner?

GRANT: There are synergies across all the media, Time Warner and throughout all of the entertainment industry. Bebo is open, and we can work with everyone.

OM: Will we see AOL making more deals soon?

GRANT: I can’t really speculate on additional acquisitions, but we will be aggressive.

7 Comments

John Smith

When you buy a new computer and AOL is part of the free software ~ watch out! AOL has a system that they will bill you if you do not contact them to let them know that you do not want them as your internet provider. The question I have is, how did they receive my credit card information? From the computer company [ DELL] ? Since I bought a Dell computer and Dell had my bank account information and since I did not give it to AOL ~ it only stands to reason that Dell and AOL are working together and share credit card information. Your credit card information!

Pam

With everything AOL can “do”… why is it after cancelling my AOL account they can’t (won’t) mark my address as undeliverable (to those that do not know I have a new e-mail address)??? The sender then thinks I am just not responding. Don’t tell me it can’t be done (that it takes a year… if that’s true!!!) No address/telephone number to be found, to reach Mr. Grant… Maybe if he sees this (IF IT’LL EVEN BE POSTED) Mr. Grant would contact me and explain which policy allows AOL to do this!!!???
Signed,
Total frustration… but hey once you’re a “prior AOL” user… who cares!!!

Aner Ravon

Bebo is real cool but AOL never managed to digest international services very well. Take a look at what they have done with ICQ, which could have been the most popular IM network.

Om Malik

Social NEtworks are the new black, I don’t buy this euphoria around social networks – this is the “free” madness that is beginning to spread around us.

Franck Poisson

A social network in your portfolio is a must-have today for the web giants: in other words be strong in the ad display business to counter-balance the search ad king Google.

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