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AOL says two-thirds of its audience now comes from mobile

Media and advertising giant AOL is now seeing most of its audience — about two-thirds — coming from mobile devices, the company has shared with Gigaom. That’s up from about half its audience coming from mobile in January 2015.

Verizon-owned AOL has a large stable of high-trafficked digital properties, including the Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, Moviefone, and many more, which have a collective global audience reach of about half a billion people per month, according to comScore. And while it’s not exactly surprising that more people are consuming content via smartphones and tablets, it is significant that AOL now has the audience to support its transformation into a mobile-first company. (That’s something Facebook also recently achieved.)

The heavy mobile growth is thanks to a strategy that began over a year ago that entailed (obviously) a defocus on desktop; strategic partnerships; internal changes; and being acquired by Verizon, according to AOL global head of mobile Chad Gallagher. “There wasn’t a magic bullet, but rather this is the culmination of all those plans finally coming together. The [mobile audience growth] is a good proof point,” he told me.

The larger mobile audience may also help AOL’s new parent company Verizon (as well as AOL itself) justify the content side of the business, even though many speculate that it was most interested in AOL’s ad-tech platform. Digiday reported back in May that AOL had approached Time Inc. about selling the Huffington Post for a cool $1 billion. Similar rumors circulated about a sale of tech news leader TechCrunch, with AOL chief exec Tim Armstrong dismissing both claims and insisting the company would remain in the business of content.

As for advertising, Gallagher said the higher mobile audience adds to recent efforts to further company’s ad business. Specifically, AOL’s agreement with Microsoft to take over most of its ad sales operations back in July, and more recently, closing on the acquisition of Millennial Media. Both of those efforts should help the company better monetize its own content.

The company, however, declined to share any stats on its mobile video audience. Yet, that’s an area of advertising AOL is increasingly interested in (as is the rest of the industry), which is clear from the Go90 ad deal Verizon and AOL made with Publicis Groupe last month.