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AOL Wrestles With The Value Of Putting Its Brand Name On Everything

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Even before Tim Armstrong joined Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) to take AOL independent, the company was mixing in new brands with the familiar acronym. He’s pushed that strategy even harder, to the point where the question is what brands will be added — but whether any of the major content will still be labeled AOL at all. Clicking AOL Sports already redirects users to its Fanhouse blog; sources tell paidContent that the company’s three capital letters will soon disappear from that section altogether.

The next big switch, as SAI first spotted: transforming AOL News into

AOL bought Sphere, a blog and news contextual display service, last year. (Before the acquisition, Sphere provided its widget technology and content distribution system to AOL News. AOL changed the brand for the original service to Surphace. )

But dropping the name isn’t the case across AOL. When Armstrong unveiled his 100 day review this past summer, he made a point of putting the AOL brand front and center. Platform-A was gone and in its place was AOL Advertising. In addition, Armstrong established AOL Media, which houses the programming unit MediaGlow — a name that was chosen by the old guard to obscure AOL’s identity, which was still associated in many people’s minds with the lucrative, if old-fashioned dial-up service. And he established AOL Ventures.

There’s no sense of strict guidelines about how the branding is enforced. The decisions of what brands to keep and which ones to toss out will largely come down to performance. With AOL News and AOL Sports, the labels were considered too diffuse, given the wide array of content appearing under those banners. Sources pointed to poor traffic numbers for AOL News as the main reason for doing away with that brand but execs consider AOL Health’s traffic to be pretty solid, so that brand will remain — at least for the time being.

Although is already touting the change — describing the site as “the next phase in the evolution of AOL News,” sources say none of these moves will be settled until the spinoff from Time Warner Dec. 9. Even then, AOL’s properties will remain in a state of flux as Armstrong’s Project Everest streamlining initiative is completed and implemented. That kicked into high gear Thursday with the request for up to 2,500 volunteers to take buyouts.

One Response to “AOL Wrestles With The Value Of Putting Its Brand Name On Everything”

  1. I've always been shocked at the reticence big brands have around getting their brand architecture and naming under control. The mess is so big, nobody wants to do it, even when they have the budget.

    — Axle Davids