AOL (NYSE: AOL) certainly went into Q3 with lowered expectations and it appeared to have beaten those benchmarks, as global display advertising grew for the third consecutive quarter and total revenues were down only 6 percent, the smallest decline in five years.
According to estimates from eMarketer, AOL’s share of U.S. online ad revenues will decline to 2.7 percent in 2011, down from 3.4 percent last year, as Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Facebook continue to gain in $12.33 billion display marketplace. After peaking in 2005 at 7.2%, the company’s share of online ad revenues in the US has declined each year since.
In terms of AOL’s hold on U.S. display ad dollars, eMarketer predicts it will have a 4.2 percent share this year, down from 4.8 percent in 2010 and 10.6 percent in 2007. Facebook is expected to pass Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), once the undisputed leader in display, for the first time in 2011, as the social network’s share reaches 16.3 percent, up from 12.2 percent last year.
Overall, AOL’s relative success in slowing its total revenue decline and growing its global display revenues come as U.S. online ad spending grew 19.1 percent to $7.70 billion in Q3 2011, according to eMarketer stats.
Some of the highlights from AOL’s results:
— Display was $136.7 million, up 15 percent
— Display in the U.S. was $125.8 million, up 14 percent
— Display internationally came in at $10.9 million for a 28 percent gain
— Search and contextual stumbled, falling 15 percent to $85.1 million
— Advertising on AOL’s own sites, was up a mere 1 percent to $221.8 million
— Third Party Network, traditionally a strong area for AOL through its Advertising.com ad network, saw revenues surge 28 percent to $95.9 million.
AOL still draws a lot of its revenues from its original business of providing internet access. Subscription revenues from the access business declined 15 percent. The challenge for AOL the past few years has been to buy enough time to build its content and advertising business so that it won’t have to rely on the access revenue. So far, the company has made progress, though investors have shown increasing weariness over the past few quarters that the growth is not coming quickly enough. The Q3 results should help CEO Tim Armstrong’s plea for more patience in making, as he said on a previous earnings call, “a sick company healthy again.”