Interview: AOL’s Armstrong First 100 Days: ‘People Are Missing The Real AOL Story’

Sixteen cities in 10 countries, from Baltimore to Bangalore, Denver to Dublin. Twenty-six Town Hall and All Hands meetings. Seventy-one product reviews. Fifty-one partner/customer meetings. The numbers charting Tim Armstrong’s 100-day immersion course as the latest chairman and CEO of AOL (NYSE: TWX) sound impressive but what do they add up to for the company on the verge of separating from parent Time Warner? Nothing as meaningful as in the next 100 days and the 100 after that as Armstrong and his team follow through on the consumer-centric strategy that emerged as he covered all those miles:

— Expand AOL-owned content through Media Glow [Translation: Don’t screw up what’s working.]
— Grow and third-party network [Translation: Platform-A didn’t work.]
— Push local and mapping [Translation: Don’t forget we own MapQuest]
— Focus on AOL e-mail, AIM and ICQ [Translation: People Networks didn’t work.]
— Start AOL Ventures with focus on innovation [Translation: Avoid becoming Island of Misfit Toys.)

Where are mobile and international? They should be part of everything AOL does, Armstrong told paidContent in a lengthy interview as he spent the last of his first 100 days trying to set the stage for the phase that starts this Monday. We talked about unwinding People Networks and Platform-A; giving Bebo breathing room; the reasoning behind AOL Ventures, which we’ve confirmed will include Bebo and Userplane; TMZ’s future; whether more layoffs are inevitable and much more. (Our sister site mocoNews has more on mobile.) Edited excerpts follow. We also have Armstrong’s 100-day memo to the staff and a memo detailing who’s who on his staff.

Staci D. Kramer: Is there anything you like about AOL or liked about AOL the way it was before you came in?
Tim Armstrong: There were several things. That’s part of the reason why I came. One is I actually thought AOL had done a nice job of improving the content on AOL so there was starting to be a better user experience. By the way, I’ve been a longtime fan of Engadget and some of the other AOL properties in general; so I actually saw some kernels of things I actually used or looked at, at least, on a regular basis before I got here. One surprising thing when I got here is there were more things, especially in the content space, that were stronger than I had thought.

Do you feel like AOL wasn’t doing a good job of getting the message across that they had these good things or of letting these good things get the attention they needed at the company?
I think there is a clear and clean split between what gets written about