AOL’s Armstrong: ‘AOL Is Not A Quarterly Project’; Plans Include More Paid Services, New Ad Platform

With its Q4 earnings less worse than expected, AOL (NYSE: AOL) chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong led off the company’s first earnings call in a decade highlighting the strategy since the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) spinoff, including launching the freelance marketplace and the $36.5 million acquisition of StudioNow. “AOL has experience in paid services, and we will continue testing new paid services throughout 2010,” Armstrong said. With the declines in revenues in mind perhaps, Armstrong said that “AOL is not a quarterly project. We will be working throughout the year on” the turnaround.

Armstrong then handed the proceedings over to CFO Artie Minson, who made a point of saying that the display ad category was broken out because that’s where the company wants to be judged, even if that segment will have ups and downs over the course of the year. He also reiterated Armstrong’s point about emphasizing premium, while adding that is not being abandoned. “We will be incredibly focused on yield management and on other ad programs,” he said.

On the search end, AOL combined contextual and search results to better reflect the association of the two. Search engine campaign management and the affiliate products will also be shuttered, which will have an initial negative impact on third party network revenues.

The Q&A began with a question from a Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney, who asked what the top two or three new product areas will Armstrong be focused on. In addition to the launch of Seed and the integration of StudioNow, Armstrong pointed to the work Jeff Levick, AOL Advertising’s global head, is working on. Levick is preparing a new ad platform, though Armstrong did not provide any further details.

On the content side, Armstrong wants to create a greater range of properties within a segment, such as technology or in women’s lifestyle sites, which appears to be a continuation of the Mediaglow strategy that began before his arrival as CEO and chairman last spring.

Minson wouldn’t comment on what AOL would be divesting, but said that they have been taking a look at the company’s portfolio and it’s safe to say that some properties will be sold off. The chief speculation has primarily centered on the social net Bebo and video search site Truveo. But Minson made sure his comments were vague enough, as he wouldn’t even address specific business categories.