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paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies

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30. AOL

Web content, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #7

Digital Content Revenue

$1,398,900,000 (63% of total)

Digital Snapshot

AOL shut down or converted numerous sites in 2011 but it still has more than 50 brands from to Winamp, with money-losing Patch in between — not counting the variations of The Huffington Post. Sites are a blend of owned and operated; content partnerships from other publishers; and celebrity hook-ups.

Key Move

The key move of 2011 was buying The Huffington Post for $315 million; since then AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has been trying to figure out how to avoid indigestion. Armstrong continues to move the furniture around with a series of re-orgs causing a perpetual reading of the tea leaves as people try to figure out Arianna’s role. Brad Garlinghouse left as president of applications and commerce in late 2011 after that strategy changed yet again. HuffPo continues to expand internationally, usually combined in partnership with a major local media outlet. In the U.S..

Our Methodology

We counted Advertising and Other revenue (ie. not Subscription, which refers to paid ISP access).

Source: SEC: 2011 Annual Return – page 31

— Staci D. Kramer

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  2. ciaranj

    If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  5. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  6. Brendan

    Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  7. Zato Gibson

    “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.