AOL (NYSE: AOL) has been one of the biggest hirers of journalists over the past two years, but lately, it’s experiencing something of an exodus among its top editorial staff. Over the past few weeks, the company has bid farewell to AOL News editor-in-chief Mike Nizza, world editor James Graff and enterprise editor James Burnett, Reuters reports.
Update: A rep for AOL said that the company is in the process of “building a world class organization and are committed to being a leading producer of high quality original content. And we are growing our organization everyday. ”
Meanwhile, Daily Finance has lost both senior Sam Gustin, who is going to Wired, and media reporter Jeff Bercovici, who departed for a post at Forbes.
These exits follow the resignations by the architects of AOL’s earlier content strategy, Bill Wilson, who left several months ago, and Marty Moe, who is preparing to leave his post as SVP for AOL Money & Finance, News & Sports, by next month. Incidentally, Wilson just took a job with local media network Townsquare Media.
In a sense, the departures of these high profile editors and writers are probably happening by design. With projects like hyperlocal network Patch and freelancer portal Seed at the top of AOL’s content strategy, the emphasis has shifted from “professional” journalists to “amateurs” who can produce content quickly and relatively cheaply.
While that makes a great deal of sense for what AOL wants to do — build scale that touches every street and content category — the problem is it could dent AOL’s corresponding ad strategy. Whenever the company has talked about rebuilding its ad sales, AOL has always talked about a greater devotion to driving premium display ads. Although advertisers generally don’t care about marquee names on the masthead, they will care if there’s not as much premium content to match their “premium” advertising dollars.